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Kjallapaka ANNAMAOJA^A 

• t^aga baja • m aha^jasvati 



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in 2018 with funding from 

Cultural Leaders of India 


Jayadeva • Kshetrajna • TallapakaAnnamacharya 
Tyagaraja • Maharaja Svati Tirunal • Syama Sastri 
Muthiiswamy Dikshitar • Amir Khusrau • Tansen 
Gopalakrishna Bharati • Swami Haridas 

General Editor : V. Raghavan 



First Edition - August 1979 (Bhadra 1901) 

First Reprint- April 1991 (Baishakh 1913) 

Second Reprint- 2000 (Saka 1922) 


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The object of the series is to offer the general reader, authentic 
accounts of the life and work of the great personalities who have 
contributed in large measure to Indian culture and philosophy and 
influenced the mind and life of its people. The series includes about 125 
such names-seers and philosophers, poets and dramatists, mystics and 
religious leaders, writers on science, aestheticians and composers. 

The books are intended for the average reader who is keen to learn 
more about Indian culture without going into finer academic details. 

Dr. V. Raghavan, General Editor of the series and an 
outstanding Sanskrit scholar and Indologist passed away 
while this book was still under production. 


■Two volumes in this series have been devoted to saints and 
mystics. The discourses and poetic outpourings of most of them are an 
integral part of our musical heritage. This volume entitled “Composers” 
includes only some of these luminaries. Those who figure here are 
basically composers and their contributions form the high-watermark of 
classical concert-music. 

Jayadeva leads the galaxy of these composers. All music 
compositions before the Gita-govinda can be seen only in music 
treatises. Jayadeva's work is a masterpiece in Sanskrit poetry, imitated 
endlessly by later poets and composers. It is also the fountain-head of 
dance and dance-drama, and of the sampradaya of “madhura-bhakti”. 
Annamacharya shares the honour of being the “Pitamaha” of Karnataka 
music along with Purandaradasa. His compositions gave shape to the 
Kirtana, a major song-form of Karnataka music. His creations include 
the theme of madhura-bhakti but it was Kshetrajna who specialised in 
it. An equally prolific composer, Kshetrajna was a master of the 
rhetoric of love. He has composed a Pada for every possible hue of 
nayaka and nayika as developed in the Alankara and Natya Sastras . 
His Padas are still sung and their abhinaya form is popular in dance. 

Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri form the 
Trinity of Karnataka Music . In their compositions, the Kirtana or Kriti 
form attained perfection. The variations in Raga and Tala, and their 
amalgamation with Bhava go on to make the Kriti more than just a 
recitative devotional composition. The repertoire of South Indian 
concerts is dominated by their creations. 

Although Tanjavur and Trivandrum are far from each other, 
music and dance brought them close during the time of the Royal 
Composer and patron Maharaja Svati Tirunal, whose varied com¬ 
positions include Kritis, Varnas, Padas, pieces for dance, Karnataka 
and Hindustani modes and long-story compositions for 
//<a'r/to/ 7 a.Gopalakrishna Bharati represents the Tamil composers of 
this time. The long-story composition on Nanda, the Pariah—devotee 
of Lord Nataraja made him immortal. He adopted colloquial Tamil in 

his songs. There are very few Bharata Natya recitals without his song 
on the dance of Nataraja, Natanam adinar in Raga Vasanta . 
Vanigalamo, in which the Pariah-bhakta begs audience with the Lord 
is another moving masterpiece in Raga Manji. 

Three outstanding names in the history of Hindustani music are 
Amir Khusrau, Tansen and Swami Haridas. The first is usually 
considered to be responsible for the Persian influences in North Indian 
music, Ragas, song forms and instruments. The other two were primarily 
musicians, pioneers of the highest form of North Indian music, the 
Dhrupad. Haridas was a saint-singer who shunned courts and patrons 
and sang only of God and for God . 

The contributors to this series are people who have made special 
study of the subjects of their article. Regarding the details about the lives 
of the personalities, biographical evidence is available only in some cases. 
For the rest there is an indistinguishable blend of legend with history. 
These, however, are important as they reflect the popular image of these 
great artists and people’s evaluation of their contributions. 



Swami Prajnanananda, 
Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 

P. V. Rajamannar, 

Retired Chief Justice of Madras 
High Court, Madras. 

R. A. Jayantha, 

Lecturer in English, Sri 
Venkateswara University, 

(Late) V.Raghavan, 

Retired Professor of Sanskrit, 
University of Madras, Madras. 

S. Venkitasubramoni Aiyar, 
Sanskrit Department, 

University of Kerala, 

(Late) P. Sambamurti, 

Retired Professor of Music, 
University of Madras, 


T. L. Venkatarama Iyer, 

Retired Judge, Federal Court 
of India, Madras. 

Chaitanya P. Desai, 

Research Officer, 

University of Music, Khaira 
Garh, M.P. 

K. C. D. Brahaspati, 

Chief Adviser, Music, All 
India Radio, 

New Delhi. 

Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer, 
Principal, Teachers' College of 
Music, Music Academy, 

Dr. B. C. Deva, 

Assistant Secretary, (Music) 
Sangeet Natak Akademi, 

New Delhi. 



Swami Prajnananand ... ... 1 


P. V. Rajamanna ... ... 5 


R. A.Jayantha ... ... 12 


V. Raghavan ... ... 20 


S. Venkitasubramonia Iyer ... ... 39 


P. Sambamoorthy ... ... 46 


T. L. VenkatarainaAiyer ... ... 53 


Chaitanya P. Desai ... ... 63 


K. C. D.Brahaspati ... ... 71 


Miidikondan C Venkatarama /yer ... ... 85 




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Swami Prajncmananda 

Jayadeva was a great composer, poet and musician. A well- 
known sloka^ mentions Umapatidhara, Govardhana, Sarana, 
Dhoyi and Jayadeva as the five gems in the royal court of 
Maharaja Laksmanasena. In the gloss, Vaisnavatosini, on the 
Bhagavata it has been mentioned: ”Sri Jayadeva-sahacharena 
maharaja Laksmanasenamantrivarena Umapatidharena. ” From 
this, it is understood that Jayadeva was one of the royal poets 
(sabha-kavi) of Maharaja Laksmanasena. Scholars accept that 
Jayadeva was a court-poet of Maharaja Laksmanasena, the last 
Hindu king of Bengal. 

Jayadeva lived in the middle or the end of the twelfth century 
A.D. His native place was Kendubilva (Kenduli) in the Birbhum 
(ancient name Kamakoti) district of West Bengal. The present 
name of Kendubilva is Jayadeva-Kenduli. Jayadeva's father's 
name was Bhojadeva and mother's name was Vamadevi. The 
poet married Padmavati. One of the commentators of the Gita- 
govinda, commenting on the words "padmavati-charana- 
charana-chah^avarti” in the text, says: "tatha-naiimi Jayadeva- 
patni. ” Some hold that the name of the wife of Jayadeva was 
Rohini. The followers of the Sahajiya doctrine say that Rohini 
was a parakiya, and the poet's real wife was Padmavati, who was 
well versed in the art of dance and music. 

'Govardhanascha Sarano .layadeva Umapatih 
Kavirajascha ratnani panchaite Laksmanasya cha. 

“Some say that .layadeva's mother's name was Ramadevi or Radhadevi. But 
these suggestions are not correct, because IVom many sources it is known that 
Jayadeva's mother's name was Vamadevi. 



There are some controversies as regards the birth-place of 
Kavi Jayadeva. Some are of opinion that he came from Utkala 
or Orissa, while others hold that he was born in South India. 
Nevertheless, the prevailing view is that he was born in Bengal 
(i.e. in West Bengal, known as the Radhadesa). In Sanskrit 
literature, there are two other Jayadevas, one of them being the 
composer of the prosody Chhandassiitra and the other the 
composer of the drama, Prasarinaraghava and the book on 
rhetoric, Chhandaloka. 

Jayadeva was greatly influenced by the Vaishnava religion 
and was devoted to the doctrine of Radha-Krishna (Radha- 
Krishnatattva). There is a controversy regarding Radha as the 
divine consort of Sri Krishna, as she is not met with at all in the 
Bhagavata. However, we find the divine love sports of Radha 
and Krishna in Jayadeva's celebrated songbook, the 
Gitagovinda. Scholars have accepted that Jayadeva's poem 
Gitagovinda exerted a great influence on the development of 
Vaishnava poetry in Mithila (Bihar) and Bengal. 

Jayadeva composed the religio-mystical songs of the Gita¬ 
govinda in Sanskrit "but their rhythm and rhyme belong to 
Apabhramsha poetry". Dr. Sukumar Sen says that just before the 
Turkish impact, during the reign of Maharaja Laksmanasena, the 
country offered the last and most important contribution to neo¬ 
classical literature which is Jayadeva's Gitagovinda. "By 
injecting the tenderness and mellifluence of the popular musical 
lyric into the strong frame of Sanskrit poetry, Jayadeva made the 
last attempt at its resurrection." 

The songs of the Gitagovinda, known also as Astapadis, are 
specimens of the richest and finest sringara-rasa-kavya; they 
represent the highest aesthetic quality. The general category 
under which the musico-literary composition of the Gitagovinda 
comes is a prabandha which comprises six limbs (angas). The 
style of the Gitagovinda is marked by soft and fluid syllabic 
schemes that charm all lovers of poetry and music. As for 

lalitalavangalata parisilana komalamalayasaniire 

madhukara nikara karamvita kokila kiijita kimja kutire 



viharati haririha sarasavasante 

nrityati yuvatijanena samam sakhi virahijanasya durante. 

We generally find in old Bengali songs the Krishna-Vishnu 
or Siva-Sakti legends or mystic and ritualistic elements of 
esoteric cults. In the Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, we have the 
divine sport (lila) of Radha-Krishna as a means of worship and 
devotion (sadhana or upasana). Known for its aisvarya 
(richness) and madhurya (beauty), it is depicted in the form of 
different aesthetic sentiments (rasasvadana). We find here also 
the scheme of nayaka-nayika-bheda (different forms of hero and 
heroine in love) and that of upasya-upasaka-bheda (different 
types of deity and devotee). Chaitanyaite Vaishnavas and other 
Bhakti schools therefore regard the Gitagovinda not only as a 
poetic composition of great beauty, but also as a religious work 
and explain it in terms of the bhakti-rasa-sastra. 

The Gitagovinda of Jayadeva is composed with its supreme 
Nayaka (hero) as Sri Krishna-Bhagavan and its nayika as the 
Parama-Prakriti, Sri Radhika. This musical poem is divided into 
twelve cantos (sargas), having different names like samoda- 
damodara, aklesa-kesava, mugdha-madhusudana, dhrista- 
vaikuntha, nagara-narayana, etc. There are twenty-four songs 
(ganas) set to twelve classical ragas and five talas. The ragas 
are: malava-gauda, gurjari, vasanta, ramakiri or ramakali, 
karnata or (kanada), devasakha or desakha, desa-varadi, or 
varadi, vibhasa, gondakiri, malava, bhairava and bhairavi, and 
the talas are: yati, ekatali, rupaka, nihsara and astatala. 

The raga forms as used in the Gitagovinda-padagana are 
somewhat different from those of the present time.' At present, 
the correct rendering of the raga forms of the Gitagovinda is 
veiy rare, or rather it differs from one part of the country to the 
other and one sampradaya to the other. It is sometimes claimed 
that the correct rendering of the Gitagovinda-gdLndiS is found in 
the temple of Jagannath in Puri in Orissa. But after close 
examination it is found that that claim is not correct either in 
Orissa or in Bengal. It has also been found that the musicians of 

‘l have elaborately discussed this in my book. Historical Development of 
Indian Music (1960), in the section on the raga-forms of the Gitagovinda. 



It has also been found that the musicians of Tanjore' show their 
superiority in the correct rendering of the tunes that are used in 
the Gitagovinda. The Sarasvati Mahal Library of Tanjore has 
published a book setting forth the abhinayas for rendering in 
dance each of the songs of the Gitagovinda. The talas used in 
the Gitagovinda are mostly those found in the padavali-kirtanas 
of Bengal. 

There are many commentaries on Jayadeva's Gitagovinda. In 
the Aufrechfs Catalogus Catalogorum, we find at least forty of 
them. The Balabodhini commentary or gloss of Pujari Goswami 
is very popular in Bengal. Rana Kumbha (1433-1468 A.D.) of 
Mewar wrote an elaborate commentary, Rasikapriya, on the 
Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, and there he has described the ragas 
used in the Gitagovinda, according to the practice known to 
him. His monumental work, Sangitaraja, records those changed 
classical forms of the ragas. 

Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda was an inspiration to the composers 
of the padavali-kirtanas; the Gitagovinda forms the background 
of the evolution of the padavali-kirtana of Bengal. Jayadeva was 
also the source from which themes of Krishnalila or doctrines of 
Krishna-bhakti were evolved by later Vaishnava scholars and 
aesthetes. The Gitagovinda inspired the Karnataka composers in 
as a musician, as a mystic poet and a spiritual Vaishnava South 
India and also a host of poets all over India who produced 
numerous imitations of Gitagovinda. There can be no doubt that 
the first and most important literaiy record of pre-Chaitanya 
Vaishnavism in Bengal was the lyrical poem of Jayadeva which 
must have been the living source of inspiration of later Bengali 
poems of Sri-Krishna-kirtana, such as those of Badu Chandidas 
(circa end of the 14th century). In conclusion, it can be said that 
Kavi Jayadeva's name and contribution are still memorable, and 
sadhaka he continues to be honoured to this day all over the 

'Also known as Tanjavur 


P V. Rajamannar 

Kshetrajna is undoubtedly the most outstanding composer of 
padams in the Telugu language. Though originally padams in¬ 
cluded musical compositions with religious, devotional or philo¬ 
sophical themes, in later days, by the time of Kshetrajna, 
sringara became the main, if not the only theme of padams. It is 
true that the sringara-bhava was often associated with a deity, 
specially, Krishna but on that account only, they cannot be taken 
out of the category of padams with sringara as the main theme. 

Very little authentic material is available to construct the life 
of Kshetrajna. All that one can say with an amount of certainty 
is that he lived in the first half of the 17th century, and the Rajah 
of Tanjavur, Raghunatha Naik, and his son, Achyutha 
Vijayaraghava Naik, were his patrons. He appears to have 
obtained the patronage also of Tirumala Naik of Madura and the 
Nawab of Golkonda. There is internal evidence in his padams of 
his visits to several temples and sacred places. There are 
apocryphal legends relating to Kshetrajna's life which are 
founded more on imagination than on any reliable fact. Scholars 
have tried to find autobiographical details in his padams to 
weave a story of his life. The result is quite attractive but most 
of their inferences are purely speculative. 

Kshetrajna’s original name appears to have been Varadayya. 
One cannot be certain when and why he came to be called 
Kshetrajna. The term occurs in the 13th chapter of the 
Bhagavadgita; but it is difficult to relate the concept of 
"Kshetrajna" contained therein to the composer of the padams. It 
may be that he attained in course of time the spiritual perfection 



which justified the title. There is also the other popular version 
that he got the name because of his visits to several kshetras. 
There has been considerable controversy as to the place of his 
birth. Several scholars, after great deal of research, have 
suggested different villages. One of them gives it as the village 
of Movva or Muvva in the district of Krishna in Andhra 
Pradesh. This conclusion is based on most of the padams being 
dedicated to Muvva Gopala. It is sufficient to mention a few 
other villages, suggested by other scholars, namely, Movuru in 
Chingleput district, a village of the same name in South Arcot 
district, the village of Movaluru in Tanjavur district, all in the 
present state of Tamil Nadu. Nevertheless, interesting though it 
may be, the truth remains that a poet's or artist's worth does not 
depend upon the place where he was born. Wherever his place 
of birth, one thing is clear that his itinerary was more in the 
Tamil districts. The places and deities mentioned in the padams 
range from Chingleput (which is near Madras) to Madura in the 
south; Trivellore, Chidambaram, Kanchipuram, Madurai, 
Srirangam, Tanjavur, are all included in the list of places which 
Kshetrajna visited. He also appears to have gone to Srisailam, 
Cuddappah and Hampi. 

Kshetrajna was a prolific composer. In one of his padams, he 
himself mentions the number as 4500. However, today, in spite 
of arduous effort on the part of music-lovers and scholars, about 
350 only are available to us. Even these suffice to make us 
realise his genius and versatility. 

In some of the padams, there is mention of the name of one 
or the other of his patrons, namely, Krishnappa Naik, who ruled 
at Ginjee, during the end of the 16th century, Raghunatha Naik 
of Tanjavur and his son Vijayaraghava Naik. In the majority, 
however, there is a dedication only to Muvva Gopala. Unlike 
other composers, Kshetrajna does not mention his own name. 
The name 'Varada' occurs in some of the padams but clearly this 
is a reference to the deity Varadarajaswami of Kanchipuram. 

Nearly a century before Kshetrajna, Annamacharya, a great 
devotee of Sri Venkateswara of Tirumala-Tirupati, had written 
hundreds of padams. Indeed, he can be rightly called the father 
of pada-kavitvam. Annamacharya's padams fall into two broad 



categories, sringara padams and vairagya padams, according to 
their themes. Kshetrajna was evidently influenced by 
Annamacharya’s sringara padams. There is one difference 
between these two great composers. Annamacharya's padams, 
whether erotic or devotional, were all devoted to Sri 
Venkateswara, whereas among the padams of Kshetrajna, there 
are some which relate to living persons. It is also quite likely 
that Kshetrajna was familiar with the compositions of the 
famous Kannada musician-saint, Purandaradasa. 

Kshetrajna's padams reveal a deep and extensive knowledge 
of music. He has composed padams in over forty ragas. These 
include ragas well known at the present day like Bhairavi, 
Kalyani, Todi, Saveri, Bilahari and Sankarabharanam. Some of 
the padams are in rare ragas, like Ghantarava, Saindhavi, 
Khande. His favourite raga appears to be Kambhoji. In his 
padams we can find a complete development of raga-bhava, in 
an elaborate pattern of Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanas. The 
padams should generally be sung in the Vilamba-kala, slow 
tempo. The talas which occur frequently are Triputa, Chapu and 

One important feature of Kshetrajna's padams is that they are 
specially suited for abhinaya and natya. Kshetrajna had first¬ 
hand knowledge of the Natyasastra. Even to this day, his 
padams always find a place in the repertoire of musicians who 
accompany the dancers. Jayadeva had the good fortune of 
having as his wife a talented dancer, Padmavati. Kshetrajna had 
a reputation for amorous adventures with devadasis who were 
primarily responsible for the preservation and continuity of the 
dance traditions in this country and was apparently well 
acquainted with the principles and practice of abhinaya. One 
scholar is of the view that Kshetrajna lived near Koochipudi, the 
seat of the well-known traditional school of dance, continued 
from generation to generation by certain Brahmin families, who 
devoted themselves entirely to this art and must have acquired a 
thorough knowledge of Natyasastra from the masters in 
Koochipudi. It is probable that he was a pupil in Koochipudi, 
that he became friendly with and loved a fellow pupil, a 
devadasi, to which fact there is an allusion in some of his 



padams. All this is a conjecture. However, two facts remain 
which are not controvertible. One is Kshetrajna's intimate 
knowledge of Natyasastra and the other is the adoption of a 
large number of Kshetrajna's padams to serve as a musical back¬ 
ground for generations of Koochipudi teachers and artists, I 
have seen in manuscript detailed analysis of'some of the padams 
of Kshetrajna for purposes of abhinaya in the hands of the 
greatest exponent of the Koochipudi style of dance, Shri 
Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastri. Inextricably, if not 
integrally, Natyasastra is associated with Alankarasastra. It is 
not therefore surprising to find evidence of Kshetrajna's 
thorough knowledge of Alankarasastra in his padams. In the 
middle of the 16th century, Bhanu Datta Misra wrote a treatise 
named Rasamanjari. Recently, a Telugu commentary on this 
work called Sringara Rasamanjari has come to light. It is of 
special interest for the reason that illustrations in this 
commentary are furnished by Kshetrajna's padams. But it does 
not follow that Kshetrajna deliberately composed his padams for 
this purpose, namely, to give lakshyas for lakshanas in the 
original. Apart from the Rasamanjari, there are a number of 
well-known treatises, which deal with different types of nayika 
and nay aka and which describe different vibhavas, anubhavas 
and sancharibhavas depicting physical and psychological states, 
with reference to the different rasas and it is not unlikely that 
Kshetrajna studied several of them. 

Treatises on poetics and Natyasastra mention several types of 
nayikas. The enumeration is from different standpoints. There 
are the three categories of sviya, the lawfully married wife; 
parakiya, which term comprised both an unmarried girl and a 
married woman, and samanya, one who is not bound by any tie 
to any one, generally vesya (courtesan). There is another 
classification based on sexual experience, mugdha, one who is 
new to such experience, one of whose primary qualities is 
shyness; madhya, one who is not new to such experience, but 
who is still not forward enough and praudha, one who is well 
versed in love-making. Each one of these types again falls into 
different classes. There are then the well-known eight-fold 
types, namely, svadhinapatika, one to whom the husband is 
entirely devoted; Vasakasajjika, a woman waiting dressed and 



adorned to receive her husband or lover; Virahotkanthita, one 
who is eagerly and nervously anxious on account of her husband 
or lover not turning up at the expected time; Vipralabdha, one 
who is disappointed in not finding her lover at the appointed 
place; Khandita, one whose lover has spent the night with 
another woman, and who scolds him; Kalahantarita, one who 
has quarrelled with her lover and sends him away and then 
repents; Prositabhartrika, one who is pining for her lover, who 
has gone abroad and Abhisarika, one who herself goes to meet 
her lover. Among the padams of Kshetrajna, we can find 
depictions of each one of these and other types of nayikas. 

Kshetrajna's padams portray sringara rasa in all its infinite 
variety. There are excellent examples both of samyoga sringara 
and viyoga sringara, depicting the state of a nayika, when she is 
with her lover and when she is alone, suffering the pangs of 
separation, respectively. The different states, physical and 
mental, of the nayika are elaborately described in the works 
dealing with poetics. Each one of these states is described in the 
padams of Kshetrajna. 

In this context, it is apposite to refer to an aesthetic doctrine 
that there is a special type of sringara rasa, which is an aspect of 
Bhakti. The classic instance is of course the love of the Gopis 
for Krishna. Roopa Goswami developed this theory in his work 
Ujjvala Nilamanl This theory may sublimate the patently erotic 
nature of the padams of Kshetrajna into expressions of spiritual 
experience. I am, however, unable to find any trace of a 
metaphysical exposition, directly or indirectly, in the padams of 

An important feature of Kshetrajna's padams is the language. 
Though he was obviously a profound scholar in Telugu and 
Sanskrit, his songs are in a soft, simple and mellifluous style. 
Long and involved compounds do not occur. Nowhere do we 
find Sanskrit words having a harsh quality. The melody of the 
Telugu language is nowhere more evident than in his padams. 
He often uses colloquial expression. His padams are full of 
proverbs and idioms, which belong to the common people. 
There is never a parade of learning. As they were intended to be 
sung, Kshetrajna has always a regard for euphony. 



In the composition of the great masters of South Indian 
Music, there is no dichotomy between the sangita and the 
sahitya, i.e., between the musical form and the literary content. 
Both emerge simultaneously as a finished creative work. Such 
composers are called vaggeyakaras. Kshetrajna belongs to that 
class along with Purandaradasa, Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama 
Sastri. The aesthetic appeal of Kshetrajna's compositions is not 
and should not be confined to either sangita or sahitya, divorced 
from each other. Just as the kritis of Tyagaraja are the 
outpourings of the heart, overflowing with Bhakti, in words 
which acquire a significance in their musical clothing which 
otherwise they would not have, likewise the beauty of the 
padams of Kshetrajna, though they can be described as lyrics 
from the literary point of view, will be fully appreciated only in 
their musical setting. 

I cannot refrain from dealing with the charge sometimes 
levelled by the orthodox section of critics that obscene passages 
often occur in his padams. It cannot be denied that the way in 
which Kshetrajna deals with the erotic theme is frank and 
uninhibited. In discussing this subject, one should not forget the 
age in which Kshetrajna lived and the idea of obscenity that 
prevailed then. It is thoroughly wrong to import mid-Victorian 
prudery into a consideration of songs composed in the 17th 
century. In well-known Sanskrit and Telugu kavyas, there are 
elaborate descriptions of a woman's figure. In avowedly erotic 
works like Amaru Satakam, there are intimate descriptions of 
sexual experience. This is not anything peculiar to these two 
languages. In ancient and medieval literature, the threshold of 
obscenity was not so low as it came to be after the middle of the 
19th century. Here are a few passages from one of the books of 
the Old Testament The Song of Solomon, which for sheer poetic 
charm are almost unsurpassed. 

"The joints of thy thighs are like jewels 

"Thy navel is like a round goblet 

"Thy belly is like a heap of wheat 
Set about with lilies." 



"Thy two breasts are like two fawns 
that are twins of a roe." 

"Let thy breasts be as clusters of the vine, 

"And the smell of thy breath like apples 

"I am a wall, and my breasts like the towers thereof." 

As far as I am aware, no one has characterised these passages as 
obscene. The Song of Solomon remains to this day one of the 
most beautiful love songs in the literature of the world. 
Likewise, the padams of Kshetrajna will occupy the first rank in 
love poetry, though here and there we may come across 
passages not in accordance with modern taste and ideas of 

In the history of the religions of the world again and again, 
we find erotic symbolism used to expound the relationship 
between the individual and the supreme being. The erotic then 
becomes esoteric. In the Bhakti school of Vaishnavism, the 
erotic motif occupies a prominent place. Krishna Paramatma is 
the divine lover. The gopis are the individual jivatmas who seek 
union or merger with the Lord. This relationship is known as 
nayika-nayaka bhava or madhura bhava. It may be said that 
Kshetrajna's padams depict this relationship. A classic parallel to 
Kshetrajna's padams is furnished by the famous Astapadis in 
Jayadeva's Gitagovinda. 

To those who are interested only in music, Kshetrajna’s 
padams have an appeal for their exposition of raga bhava, and 
chowkakala; to those who are interested in poetry, his padams 
will appeal as exquisite love-lyrics; to those who are devotees of 
Sri Krishna, his padams will appeal by their portrayal of the all- 
absorbing passion of the gopis for Gopala. 



The Tallapaka poets were a distinguished family of poets, 
music composers and scholars in Telugu and Sanskrit in the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries who did much to popularise the 
Srivaishnava faith in Andhra Pradesh. Tallapaka, their native 
village, is in Cuddapah district. Annamacharya,^ the greatest of 
them, was famous during his own time. It is said that he had a 
vision of Venkatesvara when he was sixteen and since then all 
through his life he composed samkirtanas or padas on Him, 
totalling thirty-two thousand. Of them about fourteen thousand 
are available now, all beautifully engraved on copper plates, and 
thus preserved for posterity, thanks to Annamacharya's son 
Pedda Tirumalacharya. This loved legacy lay hidden for 
centuries in a niche of Venkatesvara's temple at Tirumala to be 
re-discovered and brought to light only in the thirties. 

The little known about Annamayya's life comes mainly from 
his biography written by his grandson Tiruvengalanatha alias 
Chinnanna. Annamacharya was born in 1424 A.D. to 
Narayanasuri and Akkamamba, in answer to their prayer to 
Venkatesvara for a worthy son. They belonged to the 
Nandavarika sect of Brahmins. Believed to be an amsa of the 
Lord's sword Nandaka, Annamayya was born with devotion to 
Venkatesvara. Even as a child he would not eat unless it was 
given to him as His prasada, nor would he go to sleep unless the 
lullaby was also about Him. Born as he was with a gift for 
poetry and song, the boy Annamayya would improvise songs on 
Venkatesvara, and sing and dance in ecstasy. Absorbed as he 

' Also known as Annamayya 



was in the thoughts of God, he found attending to domestic 
chores an intolerable interference with his preoccupation. So he 
I'an away to Tirupati. By the time he could do the first steep 
cl'inib of the Tirumala Hills, he felt exhausted and slept on a 
stone. Then he dreamt of Alamelumanga, Venkatesvara's 
consort, who told him that if he had climbed the sacramental hill 
with unshod feet, he would not have been tired. Then She gave 
him the prasada of the temple and assured him that he would see 
the Lord. Annamayya, as he woke up from the dream, composed 
extempore a sataka in Her praise. Doubly enthused, he 
proceeded and reached the temple where, as he beheld the Lord, 
he burst into a song of ecstatic praise. He has a few songs which 
capture something of his thrill during his first visit to Tirumala. 

When Annamayya approached the sanctum the next day, he 
found it closed. But as he recited a newly-composed sataka on 
Venkatesvara, its doors threw themselves open. In later life, he 
was to work a few more miracles. He lived at Tirumala for 
sometime and was initiated into the Srivaishnava faith. 
Meanwhile, his people sought him out and took mm home. 
Sometime afterwards, he was married to Tirumalamma and 
Akkalamma. However, his marriage did not interfere with his 
spiritual interests. He became a disciple of the great Vaishnava 
saint Sathakopayati of Ahobalam, and studied all the sacred 
texts. With time, his faith in Venkatesvara became deeper and 
mature. In Him he found not only the most accessible God, but 
also the immanent and transcendent God, who is the beginning 
and end of all pursuits and knowledge as Annamayya was to 
affirm in many a song later. Thus Venkatesvara became the 
focus of his thoughts and feelings, and the ground and granite of 
his very being. He dedicated himself and his talents to His 
service. To sing Venkatesvara's praise became Annamayya's 
vocation. Although he propitiated other deities like Rama, 
Krishna, Narasimha and Vitthala, he viewed them all as forms 
of Venkatesvara, the Ultimate Reality. "It does not matter whom 
you worship," says he in a song, "as long as you know that there 
is no God who is not a form of Hari." 

Among the many who admired Annamayya's samkirtanas 
was Salva Narasingaraya, a local chieftain, who later became a 



king of Vijayanagar. For some time Aimamayya enjoyed his 
patronage and friendship, and had his share of prineely pleasures 
and luxuries. Narasingaraya desired him to compose songs in his 
honour. Aimamayya would not oblige him, since his tongue 
"used to the praise of Narahari could not bring itself to the praise 
of mortals". Consequently, he was fettered. But as he sang in 
appeal to Venkatesvara, the shackles gave way by themselves. 
This experience drove home to him "the futility of ser^ing an 
earthly master ignoring the Best Master". It was also a timely 
reminder to him of his vocation. Annamayya spent the rest of 
his life in the service of Venkatesvara, dividing his time between 
Tallapaka and Tirupati. He became known far and wide for his 
samkirtanas. Sage Purandaradasa, who had heard of 
Annamayya's greatness, met him. Their meeting and their regard 
for each other is very impressively described by Chinnanna. 
Annamayya lived into ripe old age and breathed his last in 1503. 

Of the dozen or more works, apart from the songs, attributed 
to Annamacharya, only his sataka on Alamelumanga and 
Sringara-manjari, a poem on a maiden's love for Venkatesvara, 
are available now. His songs are, of course, his outstanding 
achievement. He regarded them as 'flower-offerings' to God and 
himself a mere instrument singing His praise at His behest. 
While, through his songs, he exhorts and persuades others to 
seek God in Venkatesvara, the primary urge behind them is the 
felt creative need to give expression, as poetry and song, to his 
own inextricable involvement in Venkatesvara. They are, in a 
sense, literally samkirtanas since they all praise Him. In them 
Annamayya prays and praises Venkatesvara, makes love to 
Him, converses, argues and quarrels with Him, meditates on His 
many attributes, confesses his failures and apprehensions, sues 
for His grace, and surrenders himself to Him. Traditionally 
Annamayya's songs are classified into Adhyatma and Sringara 
Samkirtanas, although they are not necessarily mutually 

The Adhyatma samkirtanas in the main affirm the primacy of 
spiritual values over the purely mundane, and express the 
inevitable tension between these in oneself They emphasise the 
need for bhakti and virakti. The following paraphrase of a song 



(Bhaktikoladi vade paramatmudu in Ramakriya) suggests 
something of the quality of Annamayya's devotion and of his 
poetry. In a series of homely metaphors, he suggests the 
accessibility of God to the devout; "God becomes manifest to us 
according to our devotion to Him. As is our devotion to Him, so 
will He be to us. He is our Providence and Deliverer. He is, for 
the devout, the child that takes to whosoever invites it. He is 
broad daylight, an open treasure, and is ever before us. He is the 
butter gathered straightaway from fresh milk. He is the 
whetstone for the world. Beautiful in Himself, He needs no paint 
or colour. He is the quintessence of all speech. And He is our 
loving and masterful Lord." 

Despite such faith tensions, conflicts and apprehensions 
because of the opposing pulls in himself troubled 
Annamacharya. Many confessional songs give expression to 
them. "To live and move aimlessly has been my lot. When do I 
learn, O God, fixity of purpose? So unsteady am I that while I 
inwardly desire renunciation, I seek outwardly indulgence ..." 
bemoans he in a song (Kalakalamunitte Kipurapu hadukaye in 

Sometimes assuming liberty with God, Annamayya 
converses with Him as a friend, and even jests with Him. Once 
he tells Venkatesvara, half in jest and half in earnest, that His 
"ways are so strange that they have neither head nor tail." 
Another time he playfully tells God that even He "cannot escape 
from the fruits of His karma." 

Besides their devotional fervour, Annamayya's songs have 
substantial thought content. Frequently he meditates on the 
paradox that is God. Visvaprakasunaku in Kannadagoula is a 
representative example of such songs. Annamayya lists the 
many paradoxes of God in a series of questions suggestive of 
their answers—"Could there be distinctions of 'interior' and 
'exterior' for One who illumines the whole universe? Whence 
birth and movement to Him who is eternal and fills everything?" 

Temple festivities give Annamayya many occasions for song. 
In all of them, he sees symbolic enactment of cosmic truths. For 
example, in Alara Chanchalamaina (in Ahiri), as he describes 



the dola of Venkatesvara and His consorts in all its 
magnificence, he creates a graphic image of the entire cosmos at 
the centre of which presides Venkatesvara. In the rhythmic 
swing of the dola, Annamayya sees the cosmic rhythm. 

Among the songs of Annamayy a available now, the Sringara- 
samkirtanas outnumber the Adhyatmasamkirtanas by several 
thousands. In them, he expresses love and longing for 
Venkatesvara and his surrender to 

Him in terms of those of a nayika for a nayaka. Probably in 
adopting madhurabhakti, which had already an established 
tradition, he was partly attempting to sublimate his own sensual 
nature of which he was acutely aware. However, here 
Annamayya speaks for himself and for others who similarly 
long for God, and view spiritual life in terms of rakti rather than 
virakti. For example, for the heroine of a song (Kamayagamu 
cese kaliki) her union with her lover becomes a kamayaga to 
propitiate God who is love. The Sringarasamkirtanas, through 
innumerable dramatic situations of love, give expression to the 
many splendours of love, its anguish, apprehensions and 
despairs, all experienced for the sake of God. The following is a 
paraphrase of a representative song, which tells of a virahini's 
condition, as reported to her lover by a maid-in-attendance: "I do 
not know how, but the damsel does not feel your separation at 
all. Whoever told her, I do not know, that space is an aspect of 
your greatness, she embraces it as she imagines your forms. 
Perhaps she heard someone say that you are everywhere. So she 
looks all around avidly. Since you, Venkatadhipati, have taken 
her to yourself at every one of her thoughts and words, we have 
to believe that you are everywhere.” 

Some songs describe Alamelumanga's love for Venkatesvara. 
In Alaridugiiriyaga, (in Sankarabharanam) Annamayya 
recreates verbally every graceful gesture and movement of 
Alamelumanga's dance before Venkatesvara meant to please 
Him. Palukutenelatalli (in Salanganata) describes how the 
"Mother of honey-sweet speech” pleases Him by every art of 
love and finally possesses Him by surrendering Herself to Him. 
From such songs Alamelumanga emerges as the prototype of all 
seekers of union with God, just as Venkatesvara Himself 



remains the Purusottama to be loved and sought incessantly. 
Generally songs using madhurabhakti tend towards mere 
prurience, as many such latter-day songs would show. However, 
Annamayya holds, by and large, the balance between the sensual 
and the spiritual, although sometimes it is done precariously. 
Usually in the latter half of each song, the sensual gets 
sublimated into the spiritual. To illustrate, the first half of 
Javvadimettinadi pictures admirably the voluptuous charms of 
the heroine. In the second half she surrenders them all to 
Venkatesvara and thus consecrates them. 

The samkirtanas have a common structural pattern. Each 
song comprises a pallavi, very occasionally an anupallavi, and 
usually three metrically and musically identical four-line 
charanas. The pallavi states the theme of the song which the 
charanas elaborate with appropriate illustrations and analogies. 
Like many other devotional singers, before and after him, 
Annamayya freely uses the puranic lore. One is struck by the 
idiom of the songs, which is a happy blend of literary and 
spoken Telugu although he inclines towards the colloquial, 
especially in the sringarasamkirtanas. Homely similes, 
analogues and adages are countless. Consequently Annamayya's 
expression is always concrete, direct, spontaneous and forceful. 
In general, the songs exhibit a high degree of literary crafts¬ 
manship even though a good many seem to be extempore 
utterances rather than conscious compositions. In songs of such 
nature and bulk as Annamayya's, repetition of ideas and a 
feeling of sameness are perhaps unavoidable. 

Chirma Tirumalacharya, grandson of Annamayya, praises 
him in his Samkirtanalaksana as 'Padakavitamargadarsi' and 
'Padakavitapitamaha'. Posterity has endorsed this praise. But, 
obviously, Annamayya was not the first to compose padas nor 
the inventor of this form. The pada, which had been evolving 
over many years seems to have emerged as a distinct and 
standardised metrical form by the late fourteenth and early 
fifteenth centuries. Annamayya's elder contemporary 
Sripadarayasvami and his predecessors had already used the 
pada form for writing devotional songs in Kannada. 
Annamacharya, who was probably influenced by 



Sripadarayasvami in this respect, seems, as yet, to be the first 
writer of padas in Telugu. The pada is a difficult form to handle, 
bound as it is by strict prosodic rules, and meant to serve the 
purpose of both poetry and song. Annamayya uses it with such 
mastery that it becomes a habit of his mind and a flexible 
medium for expressing his religious and artistic sensibility. By 
his extensive use of it for samkirtana he established it as a 
respectable and independent genre, and set a model for 
subsequent Telugu poet-composers, of whom Kshetrajna is the 
most successful. 

Annamayya's biographer records that when he sang, his 
listeners felt that he was Narada or Tumburu reborn. 
Unfortunately little is known about Annamayya's music or 
musical thought. While his poetry could be preserved, thanks to 
his son, his music could not be; for what reasons, it is not clearly 
known. Not only are there no written records of his music— 
perhaps that is too much to expect— but there is no living 
tradition of singing his songs, although for several decades after 
him his songs were sung daily at Tirumala and in Bhajanakutas. 
In the Bhajanasampradaya of South India which is traced back 
to him, the tradition in Tamil Nadu is said to remember still just 
a few pieces of his. The copper plates mention only the raga of 
each song. But what musical form and tala Annamayya assigned 
to it is not known, nor there seems to be any means of 
recovering or reconstructing authentically his music. He did not 
have the advantage of an institution like the Dasakuta which 
has, in a way, preserved the tradition of singing Dasarapadagalu. 
However, since Annamayya's samkirtanas and the 
Dasarapadagalu are similar in their structural pattern, and are 
products of the same ethos, it is very likely that they resemble 
each other musically also. 

That Annamacharya knew all the musical modes and forms 
of his times is obvious from his works. But he conceived his 
padas as did the earlier devotional singers, primarily as 
devotional poetry. Music was mainly an aid to render them 
effectively. The kritis of Tyagaraja and others, on the contrary, 
are conceived generally as musical compositions, and their 
poetry, however impressive, is mainly a verbal scaffold for 



raising a musical structure. Musical thought, rather than poetie 
thought, seems to determine their struetural pattern. Therefore 
while singing Annamayya's padas, special attention to their 
meanings will have to be given. Naturally, their sahitya gets 
preeedence over their music. Moreover, their somewhat tight 
structural pattern limits their musieal possibilities, although a 
resoureeful musieian can always find scope for musical 

Annamaeharya tried his hand at suladis. As yet only one of 
them, a desi suladi, is available whieh is both a talamalika and a 
ragamalika. It is interesting in that it begins with Malavagoula 
and ends with Sri. In between elosely related ragas such as 
Ramakriya, Varali, Bouli, Padi and Nata are employed. The 
ragas used by Annamayya in his songs are only about a hundred. 
A good many of them, such as Abali, Amarasindhu, 
Kondamalahari, Sourastragujjari, etc., have become either rare 
or obsolete now. Of the well-known ragas which are in use now 
and used frequently by him are Mukhari, Sankarabharanam, 
Kambhoji, Devagandhari, Ahiri, Sri, Kedaragoula, Bhairavi, etc. 
Probably even these have undergone subtle changes since then. 
Annamaeharya takes his place in the tradition of Karnataka 
music as a great Padakarta. He belongs both to poetry and 
music, perhaps more to the former, for his songs can be read and 
appreciated even without their music. 


V. Raghavan 

In several respects, the genius of Karnataka music may be 
said to touch its high water-mark in Tyagaraja.^ The infinite play 
of imagination and originality is evident in him more than in 
other composers. In fashioning a variety of expressive forms in 
well-known melodies or in newly invented melodies, in the 
perfecting of the form of composition called Kriti and enriching 
it with inventive elements, in the poetry and philosophy of the 
text of the songs,—in all these, he stands out as the foremost 
tone-poet and as the single complete example of the genius of 
Karnataka music at its best and highest. 

It is no wonder that in the last half a century and more, his 
songs have come to dominate the concerts of Karnataka music. 
Even among the three great composers—the celebrated trinity— 
himself, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri whose 
compositions threw into the background the earlier works, 
Tyagaraja enjoys a special popularity with musicians and lovers 
of music alike. His name, sometimes mentioned only as 
'Ayyarval' or 'Swamigaf, evokes a special sense of veneration 
among the votaries, active as well as passive, of the art. His 
anniversary is an annual festival wherever, in India or now in 
foreign countries too, there are South Indians. 

Tyagaraja appeared in a period which was thronged with 
giants in the art, performers, theorists, composers, makers of 
dance-music, dance-drama and authors of compositions of 
grammatical and scientific value (Laksanagitas, Thayas, 
Varnas). Girirajakavi, perhaps his maternal grandfather, was a 

Also Tyagaraja 



poet and composer. His guru was one of the great masters of the 
time, Sonthi Venkataramana 3 ^a, son of Sonthi Subbayya. With 
all the roads for the artists leading at that time to Tanjavur, 
Karnataka music was getting enriched from all sides and 
shaping itself through a ferment of theory and the formulation of 
its grammar and crystallisation of the forms of its creative 
expression. To have appeared amidst this throng of talent and to 
have outshone them with his creations is indeed the greatest 
testimony to his genius. 

Tyagaraja was born in 1767 at Tiruvarur in Tanjavur district 
of Tamil Nadu. Tiruvarur is not only a renowned place in the 
religious history from the times of the Nayanars but was also the 
religious headquarters, so to say, for the Mahratta rulers of 
Tanjavur. Tiruvarur was also famous for the art of music and 
dance centering round the great temple of Tyagaraja, the 
dancing Siva deity at this place. Scholars and artists attached to 
the Telugu and Mahratta courts of Tanjavur were living at 
Tiruvarur. A leading Telugu writer and composer among them 
was Girirajakavi and it is to his daughter that Tyagaraja was 
born. It was after the presiding deity at Tiruvarur that the child 
was named Tyagaraja. 

Tyagaraja's family, on the side of his father, Rama Brahmam, 
was living in Tiruvayyaru or Panchanada, a sacred place on the 
Cauvery, about 11 km from Tanjavur, the seat of the ruling 
Mahratta dynasty. Tyagaraja came of a Telugu Vaidika 
Muriginadu family named Kakaria, and his ancestors must have 
come from the Telugu area and settled here during the Nayak 
rule of Tanjavur. The name Tiruvayyaru or Panchanada refers to 
'five rivers' which flow through and near this place, a centre of 
pilgrimage and festivals. Of the holy and beautiful Cauvery 
flowing here, Tyagaraja draws a fine picture in two of his songs, 
Muripemu in Mukhari and Sarivedalina in Asaveri. Tyagaraja 
loved the Chola country as he says in the first two songs referred 
to above: "The Chola-sima, the beautiful land in this world." 

Details of Tyagaraja's life are known only from tradition, 
some of which could be verified from references in his songs, 
e.g., the names of his family and father which he mentions. 
Tyagaraja is said to have married twice, the first wife having 



died early without any issue. To the second wife was born a 
daughter named Sita-lakshmi, and a son named Tyagaraja was 
born to her. When this grandson died issueless, the main line of 
Tyagaraja ended. 

Tradition speaks of an elder brother of Tyagaraja named 
Japyesa. To glorify Tyagaraja and provide background for some 
songs of the composer, this Japyesa is made into a 'villain', who 
ill-treated Tyagaraja, disapproved of Tyagaraja's devotional 
activities, pressed him to seek royal patronage, threw into the 
Cauvery the Rama image worshipped by him, partitioned the 
ancestral house and so on. There must be some basis for these 
stories to grow; actually in two of his songs, Tyagaraja speaks of 
his elder brother: the Kapi piece Anyayamu Seyakiira, where.he 
prays to God to free him from the troubles given by his elder 
brother and Nadiipai in Madhyamavati, where he refers to 
accusations against himself as being responsible for the partition 
of the ancestral house to enable him to celebrate his festivals for 
Rama. In two other pieces (Nayeda vanchana — Nabhomani. and 
Etiila gapadiituvo — Ahiri), Tyagaraja mentions confrontation 
with his agnates (dayadis). 

Tyagaraja had to face many detractors even outside his 
family. The single largest group of his songs—which are high- 
strung on the emotional side—represents what he sang in 
anguish of this hostile atmosphere in which he had to live. In the 
song Prarabdha-inittundaga (Svaravali), he bemoans his fate: 
"Those whom I help turn against me; those whom I treat 
charitably level baseless charges against me." The detractors 
around him reviled at his devotional activities as well as his 
music compositions. In a number of songs, he prays to Rama to 
protect him from these revilers; in Sarivarilona in Bhinna sadja, 
he asks Rama: "Have I not been sufficiently ridiculed among my 
compeers? ...Is it fair on your part passively to be seeing me 
agonised in the midst of these wild prattlers?" All these trials, 
like fire, made the gold of his faith in Rama glow brighter and 
draw from him more and more masterpieces of moving music. 

Tyagaraja had vowed to lead the life of voluntary poverty. 
According to the tradition of the Bhagavatas, he adopted for his 
livelihood Unchavritti, going out everyday singing the Lord's 



songs and receiving handfuls of rice from householders who 
might feel like giving. He sang of the Lord alone and avoided 
Nara-stuti, praising mere man for obtaining rewards, which was 
prohibited according to the practice of the devotees of the Lord. 
Tyagaraja scrupulously observed this principle and his classic 
song on this, Nidhi chala sukhama (Kalyani) is well known. He 
asks here: "Does wealth (Nidhi) constitute happiness or does the 
presence (Sannidhi) of Rama constitute happiness?... Flattery of 
mere men bound in their own conceit or the singing of the 
Lord—which conduces to greater happiness?" 

In the practice of devotion, Tyagaraja followed the cult of 
reciting Rama's saving name (Taraka Nama) for the prescribed 
number of times. Rama-worship came down in his family as 
mentioned by him in several songs and was strengthened by 
contacts with the active promoters of that path at that time like 
Upanishad Brahmendra of Kanchi who was a friend of 
Tyagaraja's father and the invitation (Srimukha) from whom is 
preserved in the Tyagaraja-manuscripts’ handed down in the 
Walajahpet School of Tyagaraja's pupils. Tyagaraja himself 
mentions one Ramakrishnananda, a sannyasin of his times, as 
his guru. Tyagaraja is said to have successfully completed the 
repetition of Rama-Nama 96 crores of times as prescribed, and 
succeeded in gaining the vision of Rama. 

Tyagaraja's songs embody many doctrinal ideas of this school 
of reciting the divine Name (Nama-siddhanta) and of the larger 
path of devotion, Bhakti-marga, songs which appear to have 
been specially composed for use in religious-musical discourses 
in Bhajanas, Kirtanas or Harikathas. Not only on the efficacy of 
the Lord's Name but also on how best to recite it, Tyagaraja 
speaks in his songs. In the well-known song in Purnachandrika, 
Telisi Rama, Tyagaraja emphasises that the recitation of Rama's 
Name is no mechanical muttering but should be based on a full 
realisation of the significance that Rama is the Supreme Being; 
and in another equally well-known song (Rama neeyeda 
prema — Kharaharapriya), he stresses that the uttering of Rama 
Nama should be accompanied by real love for Rama. 

‘ These are now preserved by the Saurashtra Sabha at Madurai 



The Ista-devata or favourite form of God that Tyagaraja 
sought through the Name and whose glory he celebrated most in 
his songs is that of Rama. He repeatedly declares that Rama was 
his favourite Deity (Istadaivamii neeve—m a very appealing 
Dhanyasi song —Syama Sundaranga); 'Rama alone is my God' 
(Rama eva daivatam — Balahamsa); 'Who is there to equal 
you, O Rama' (Rama ni samanam evaru — Kharaharapriya); 
'Rama alone is God' (Vadera Daivamu — Pantuvarali); and so 
on. This Rama is not only the avatara endowed with infinite 
excellence sung of by Valmiki. Tyagaraja has gone over, in his 
songs, the whole epic and the episodes and exploits of Rama 
described there; but behind all this there is the faith that Rama is 
the Supreme God beyond the Trinity (see his isamanohari 
song— Manasa Sri Ramachandruni), indeed the Para Brahman 
itself. In his well-known Piirnachandrika song (Telisi Rama), 
Tyagaraja declares that the word 'Rama' is a name of Para 
Brahman, recalling the well-known elucidation 'Rama-padena 
asau param Brahma abhidhiyate. ” As minstrel of Rama, by the 
quality and quantity of his songs on Rama, Tyagaraja takes his 
place in the galaxy of the great Rama-poets of India, who 
followed in the wake of Valmiki. Tyagaraja came of a Smarta 
family of Advait tradition and according to the catholic outlook 
of this tradition, he sang of other deities too, Siva, Devi, etc. In 
his song in Chayatarangini (Itara Daivamula) he says that his 
mind is passionately in love with Rama without harbouring any 
prejudice towards other deities and faiths. He believed in a 
Bhakti which had its consummation in the undifferentiated 
union with Godhead, (So'ham-bhavana), as he says in his song 
Intakarma in Bilahari. 

In a large number of songs Tyagaraja expatiates on the 
character of true devotion and of a true devotee, on the futility of 
observing mere rites and rituals and other formalities and 
accessories like baths in sacred waters, long pujas, etc., on the 
necessity for ethical and moral qualities rather than for 
conformity to mere orthodox habits, etc. These songs, in which 
Tyagaraja is eloquent follow the line of the exhortations of all 



the earlier saint-singers.’ In the Dhanyasi song Dhyaname, for 
example, he points out that the best bath in Ganga is the 
contemplation of the Lord. He refers in Nadachi nadachi 
(Kharaharapriya) and Balamu kiilamu (Saveri) to pretenders 
who bathe, fast, close their eyes, and roll the rosary. The picture 
of a true devotee is given in the Begada song Bhaktuni 
Charitramii: "O Mind! listen to the conduct of a devotee of Sri 
Rama! The devotee, who, without attachment to sense- 
pleasures, seeks Him, becomes a Jivanmukta and enjoys 
supreme bliss. Such a devotee should not boast of his having 
done japa and tapas; he should not behave or speak like a 
hypocrite: should not be weak, fickle-minded and lost in 
attachments; should not regard material prosperity as real; 
should never make distinction between Siva and Madhava; 
should make no profession out of his qualifications; should not 
allow the sway of rajas and tamas; should not desist from yogic 
practice and should never forget Sri Rama." Similarly real puja 
is that which is done, not with a lot of external accessories but 
with a complete inner dedication, an internal worship, a bhava- 
piija. He says in Paripalaya — Ritigaiila; "My body is your 
favourite abode (Puja-griha); my steadfast mind, your golden 
throne (cf. also his Manasu nilpa); my meditation of your 
beautiful feet is the Ganga-water; my attachment to you is your 
beautiful dress; my praise of your glory, your sandal-fragrance; 
my remembrance and recital of your Name, the full-blown lotus 
for you (cf. his— Namakusumamiilache); the fruits of all my 
past misdeeds is the incense to be burnt before you; my devotion 
to your feet is the all-day lamp to you; the very fruit of this kind 
of superior worship that I do is the food-offering to you; the 
lasting bliss that I derive is the pan (Tambula) for you; my 
seeing you (Darsana) is the waving of light before you. Mere 
scholarship is of no use (Ksi-namai-Miikhari) and faith in 
astrology leads one nowhere (Graha-balanieim-Revagupti). Real 
Bhakti alone saves and nothing else can be a substitute for it. 
Genuine devotion is the great royal road (Chakkani rajamurga- 

'See my The Great Integrators - Saint-Singers of India, Publications Division, 
Government of India 



Kharaharapriyaf. In many of these songs in which he exposes 
the prevailing shams and hypocricies and emphasises the 
essential things as against the accessories, Tyagaraja's literary 
gifts, imagination, ability to develop an idea and stringing 
similes and gift for wit and satire come out prominently. 

Tyagaraja is also remarkable for a good number of songs in 
which he has expatiated on Nadopasana, on the art of music as 
an aid to devotion and contemplation, on God being the 
embodiment ofNada, and the absorption in the joy of melody as 
itself constituting spiritual liberation, Moksha. In the exhorta¬ 
tions in his songs, he holds up this high spiritual ideal for the 
musicians and condemns music devoid of devotion. For 
exam pie, Sangitagnan iiin u-Dhanyas i, Nadatan um-Chittranjani, 
Gitarthamu-Surati, Nadopasanache-Begada, Nadaloludai- 

Kalyanavasanta, Mokshamiigalada-Saramati; Svara-raga- 
sudharasa — Sankarabharana. In Nadatanum, he describes Siva 
as the embodiment of Nada, as constituting the essence of 
Samaveda and as delighting in the seven Svaras born of His own 
five faces. In Nadasudharasambilanu in Arabhi. he similarly 
portrays Rama as the ambrosial Rasa ofNada itself taken human 
form. "Devotion associated with the nectar of Svara and Raga is 
verily paradise and salvation." he declares in his well-known 
song in Sankarabharana, Svara-ragasudharasa. The burden of 
another well-known song, in Dhanyasi, is "Knowledge of music 
without Bhakti will not lead to salvation." A third well-known 
piece, Mokshamugalada in Saramati, shows the idea that 
Realisation and Release (Sakshatkara and Moksha) are not 
possible for those who are devoid of knowledge of music 
coupled with true devotion to the Lord; and the seven notes of 
music are manifested out of the Nada of the mystic syllable OM. 
"The joy of music is itself the bliss of the Brahman that the 
Vedanta speaks of," declares Tyagaraja in three songs: "O Mind! 
drink and delight in the immortal elixir of melody and attain the 
fruit of Yaga, Yoga, Tyaga and Bhoga; those who understand 
that Nada, Omkara and Svara are nothing but Siva; are verily 

For more examples and fuller treatment of this aspeet, see Ch. IV on 
Reformist Zeal in my Introductory Thesis, Spiritual Heritage of Tyagaraja, pp. 
84-108, second edition. 



Jivanmuktas, those who have realised liberation here itself." 
(Ragasudharasa-Andolika). "O Mind! He who delights in Nada 
attains the bliss of Brahman." (Nadaloludai-Kalyanavasanta). 
"The body that does not float on the ocean of the ineffable bliss 
of Brahman called music is a burden to the earth." 
(Anandasagara- Garudadhvan i ). 

The language of Tyagaraja's songs is Telugu but an 
appreciable number of his songs are wholly in Sanskrit.’ The 
Telugu of Tyagaraja is also full of Sanskrit. He has composed a 
prose piece (Churnika) to be sung, which is also wholly in 
Sanskrit. His Sanskrit, like his Telugu, is marked by felicity. He 
is usually happy in his Yatis which add an alliterative charm, 
e.g. Nidhi-Sannidhi, Vidulakii-kovidulakii, Dantunnikaina- 
Vedantunikaina, Dari-Simdari-Tripiirasimdari, Dehi- Vaidehi, 
Graha-Anugraha, etc. At times, Tyagaraja shows a wide 
vocabulary, uses words in rare meanings, as also rare words for 
alliteration, punning and working in conceits and compounds 
(Samasas)“. All this shows that he had an adequate grounding in 
Sanskrit. His Telugu verses in different metres in his two drama 
compositions bear out his grounding in Telugu. This was to be 
expected in one of his family background. The material of the 
wide subject matter of the Ramayana is well-known to him, his 
songs showing his thorough acquaintance with the Valmiki- 
Ramayana. He knows also the other Ramayanas in Sanskrit: In 
his Isamanohari song Manasa Sri, he refers to chapters 3 and 6 
of the Balakanda of the Adhyatma Ramayana. The references in 
Srijanaka-tanaye on Sita in Raga Kalakanthi and in the well- 
known Kambhoji song Ma Janaki are to the Adbhuta Ramayana. 
The Ananda Ramayana is also drawn upon in some pieces, (e.g. 
Oka mata — Harikambhoji) and the Bhusundi Ramayana in 
Sarasa samadana-KapinarayanC Mention of Valmiki having 
been a hunter, of Rama's Name being imparted by Siva to all 

‘ See my Sanskrit Compositions of Tyagaraja, 34th Conference Souvenir, 
1960 Music Academy, Madras 

" For examples see PP. 26-30, my Introductory Thesis, Spiritual Heritage 

^ See my Tyagaraja and Ramanayas other than Vaimiki's, Souvenir of the . 
48th Conference, 1974, Music Academy, Madras. 



persons dying in Varanasi, of Rama's greatness being told by 
Siva to Parvati, of the Name Rama meaning Supreme Brahman, 
of Hanuman under the Parijata tree reading Purana, these and 
several other details of this kind show that the whole literature 
on the Rama-cult from the Rama Tapini Upanisad to different 
Puranic and Samhita texts and the different Ramayanas in 
Sanskrit, as well as the version of Tulasidas whom he mentions 
and salutes, were quite familiar to Tyagaraja. Similarly, he must 
have read the Srimad Bhagavata, the Bible of the Bhakti-marga. 
A manuscript of the Telugu Bhagavata of Potana is among the 
Tyagaraja manuscripts preserved by the Walajahpet school. 
Upanishad Brahmendra's writings on the Lord's Name and its 
recitation, the idea that the Name 'Rama' is the vital essence of 
the five-lettered Siva-mantra and the eight—syllable Narayana- 
mantra—mentioned in his Evarani in Kharaharapriya ,— is 
explained in detail by Upanishad Brahmendra in his 
UpeyanamavivekaK Composers who were before Tyagaraja who 
sang en Rama and doctrines of Bhakti and Nama and on music 
as a Sadhana — Annamacharya, Purandaradasa, Ramadasa— 
were also part of the heritage reflected in Tyagaraja's songs. 
Ramadasa of Bhadrachalam with his Rama-devotion and 
suffering stood in a special relation to Tyagaraja and is 
mentioned by name by Tyagaraja in his Kirtanas. 

We shall now consider how Tyagaraja has constructed his 
Kirtanas. As on the musical side he starts on an effective phase 
of a Raga in the Pallavi and then unfolds the other phases in the 
subsequent parts of the song; on the literary side, in a more 
pronounced manner, he gives as the burden of the song (in the 
Pallavi) the central idea, expands it to some extent in the 
Anupallavi and then elaborates it further in the Charanas or feet 
of the song. 

See my edition of this text in the Adyar Library series; also pp. 126-7, my 
Introductory Thesis, Spiritual Heritage ofTyagaraja- 

^ See my Tyagaraja and Annamacharya, and Tyagaraja and Ramadasa in the 
Journal of the Music Academy, Madras, XXXIX, PP. I00-I05; I06-II. Also, 
my Forerunners of Tyagaraja in Kirtana-Composition, Souvenir of the Rasika 
Ranjana Sabha, Calcutta, 1968-69 and pp. 7-8, 40-41, 144 of Introductory 
Thesis, Spiritual Heritage of Tyagaraja. 



We have space here to give only one illustration, Emi Jesite 
nemi — Todi. The burden of the song is the simple and central 
statement : "Of what avail is anything that is done by those who 
have not been blessed by Rama ?" In the next phase, the 
Anupallavi, the people devoid of Rama's grace are identified as 
those who are slaves of lust and other passions and incapable of 
knowing the commandments of Rama. In the five feet that 
follow, the former part of the Pallavi-idea, namely, "the variety 
of things that they may do or achieve" are illustratively 
elaborated: 1. What if they have houses and other properties ? 2. 
What if they perform Yagas, bring up children or, Tyagaraja 
adds with a grin, have adopted others' children ? 3. What if they 
are women's men ? 4. What if they enjoy large social status and 
prominence ? and 5.What if, even in the religious field, they 
become big gurus and can impart Mantras ? All this is of little 
use if Rama's grace is not there. An example of the song opening 
with the central idea in the Pallavi, further explicated in the 
Anupallavi and buttressed in the feet by a series of analogies 
may also be given. 

We may take Telisi Rama in Purnachandrika where we also 
have an example of his mastery of language and sense of humor. 
The Palaver says; "O Mind, with knowledge and thought of 
Rammer, chant Rammer’s name." The next phase Anupallavi 
augments the above brief statement with the further 
requirements for the proper chanting of Rama's name: "Closing 
the gates of the mind and realising the real significance of Rama 
as the Redeemer;" In the three feet follow three illustrations of 
how one can recite one thing and mean a totally different and 
base or despicable thing: 1. Rama (with a long syllable end, and 
in feminine gender) would mean an enticing woman whereas 
Rama, the correct form uttered with correct knowledge, means 
the Supreme Being. 2. Arka is the effulgent God of light, the 
Solar Deity, and Arka is also a poisonous plant the Juice of 
which blinds one's eyes. 3. Aja is a poor goat as also the great 
God of creation. So recite with understanding of the meaning of 
what you recite. 



For play of imagination and poetic fancy,' the foremost 
illustration is Vachamagocharame in the rare Raga Kaikavasi. 
Tyagaraja paints a miniature here: "Rama's glory is beyond 
words; is it possible to describe it? His arrow is such that with it 
he struck down Maricha and burnt Subahu. See what he did with 
his arrow further! Sita once looked wistfully at the long tail of a 
Chamara-deer; understanding her mind's desire, Rama sent an 
arrow at the Chamara-deer's tail; the deer wanted to save its tail 
and covered it with its head and turned its body, exposing the 
body to the arrow rather than its coveted tail, i.e., preferring to 
die rather than live without its pride, the tail. Rama was touched 
to the quick by the Chamara's reaction and out of compassion 
sent a faster arrow at his earlier one and cancelled it." Tyagaraja 
must have read the Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa with which all 
students start their studies; in X. 67 Kalidasa describes 
Dasaratha's hunt and in one of his pen-pictures here presents a 
peacock with its beautiful feathers and Dasaratha who is about 
to aim his arrow at it, withdraws it as he is reminded of the 
tresses of his beloved, bedecked with flowers. Although this, as 
also the Raghuvamsa X. 57 might have inspired Tyagaraja, the 
miniature as worked out by Tyagaraja is his own. 

Wit, proverbs and popular sayings, etc., are a special feature 
of the songs of the popular preachers that the saint-singers were. 
Tyagaraja's songs have their own quota of these. These serve to 
drive home the ideas with force. 

As already observed, Tyagaraja belonged to the Bhajana- 
sampradaya, which was at its height in the Cauvery delta at that 
time. In the Bhajans conducted by groups at homes or in special 
halls, Bhajana Mathas, they celebrated special festivals, the 
marriage of Rama and Sita or Krishna and Rukmini and held 
congregational singing of devotional songs, for all of which a 
pattern, paddhati, had evolved, starting with the announcement 
of the Lord's arrival (Heccharika), his taking the seat in the court 

For several examples of these qualities, see PP. 31-3, my Introductory Thesis, 
Spiritual Heritage of Tyagaraja. 



hall (Kolu), the marriage which includes Gauri Kalyanam or the 
actual marriage, Nalangu or the divine couple in play, Harati or 
waving of light, Lali or enjoying the swing; laying the Lord to 
bed (Pavvalimpu) and the waking Him up next morning 
(Suprabhatam song). For use in the Puja of the Deity, as part of 
such celebrations, there were songs for the offering of the 
different Upacharas to the Deity. A set of songs was composed 
by Tyagaraja for use in such congregations and festivals. These 
songs, called Utsava-sampradaya-kirtanas numbering about 
twenty-seven, are simpler in setting but rich in ideas and literary 
quality. Of the same type and for similar congregational singing 
by devotees, Tyagaraja composed many other songs, about 
seventy-eight in number, which go by the name Divya-nama- 
samkirtanas. Many songs from these two groups figure now in 
concerts where musicians render them’in the closing part of their 

Tyagaraja produced also two sustained story-compositions, 
presented in the form of a drama. In Tyagaraja's time, 
Bhagavatas had dramatic performances on devotional stories 
from the Puranas, written by distinguished composers and sung 
and danced before the temples in the villages on occasions of 
festivals-. Merattur Venkatarama Sastri was an outstanding 
composer of such Bhagavata plays. Tyagaraja must have 
emulated the example of this elder contemporary of his and 
others of an earlier age, when he composed these two plays of 
his. There is, however, no tradition of these two plays of 
Tyagaraja having been played at any time. In modern concerts, 
pieces from these are sung in concerts, several especially from 
the Prahlada-bhakti-vijaya. 

The Prahlada-bhakti-vijaya, the longer composition, takes up 
the Puranic story of the boy-devotee, Prahlada, son of demon 
Hiranyakasipu, the enemy of Hari and of Hari incarnating as 
half-lion and half-man (Nara-simha) and putting an end to the 
demon. This story is the sermon par excellence of the Bhakti 
tradition. Merattur Venkatarama Sastri's play on this story is a 
famous one, regularly enacted in some of the villages round 
Tanjavur; but Tyagaraja took his own line in handling this story. 
As is clear from the title, the play brings out the greatness of the 



devotion of Prahlada. Tyagaraja follows the Visnu Puruna 
version of Prahlada's story rather than the well-known version in 
the Bhagavata Ptirana. Visnu as the Man-Lion God is not 
brought in by Tyagaraja, nor any confrontation between Him 
and Hiranyakasipu. In fact, even Hiranyakasipu is not brought 
in person. The play is taken up in its five Acts with the devotion 
of Prahlada, the tortures he is made to undergo by his demon- 
father, the long exchanges of love and devotion between 
Prahlada and Hari, Hari protecting Prahlada, Prahlada having 
finally the Lord's Darsana and company and the prayers of the 
Gods to Lord Visnu. There are forty-five songs in twenty-eight 
Ragas of which no less than thirteen are repeated an-numerous 
interlinking passages, in verses in Telugu metres Kandapadya, 
Seesapadya, Dvipadi, Utpalamala and Champakamala, prose 
and stray Sanskrit verses. The play is set Just like other 
Bhagavata plays. 

The Nauka-charitra, as the name means, is Lord Krishna 
enjoying a boating trip on the river Yamuna in the company of 
the Gopis. The Gopis feel exhilarated with the pride of their 
beauty and their enjoyment of the love of the Lord. To bring 
down their pride, the Lord calls up a storm, makes a hole appear 
in the boat and water gush in. The Gopis lament and the Lord 
asks them to remove their clothes and plug the hole with them. 
After a time, when they surrender themselves completely to the 
Lord and their pride disappears, the Lord call off the storm, etc. 
Compositions on this theme of Nauka-vilas or Tarani-vihara are 
common in the devotional writings of Bengal and this tradition, 
as well as the familiar Vastra-paharana and Rasalila episodes in 
the Bhagavata, were used by Tyagaraja for this play. In addition 
to the Telugu meters used in the Prahlada-play, Tyagaraja uses 
here the Sanskrit Sardula-vikridita often. There are twenty-one 
songs, in thirteen Ragas, four Ragas being repeated. Shorter and 
more compact than the play on Prahlada, the Nauka-charitra, 
which lends itself to an effective production as a dance-drama, is 
a brilliant achievement of Tyagaraja's genius. 

Tyagaraja was steeped as much in the music heritage as in the 
heritage of Rama-bhakti. In the beginning of his Prahlada- 
bhakti-vijaya, he salutes the saint-singers and musician- 



devotees, Jayadeva, the Maharashtra saints Namadeva, 
Jnanadeva and Tukaram, then Tiilasidas and then nearer home 
Piirandaradasa, Bhadrachala Ramadasa and Narayana Tirtha. On 
the theoretical side of music, in his Vidulaku-Mayamalavagaula, 
his song of salutation to the learned writers and teachers of the 
past with whom Sanskrit texts on music are associated, he 
mentions Bharata, Kasyapa, Nandikesvara, Anjaneya, Agastya, 
Tumburu, Somesvara and Sarangadeva. Some expressions of the 
last-mentioned writer in his Sangi taratnakara are also 
incorporated by Tyagaraja in one of his songs (Nadatanum- 
Chittcnxmjani). He also refers to a specific text on music written 
as a dialogue between Siva and Parvati in the concluding part of 
the song on music, Svararagasiidhiirasa in Sankarabharana. 

Tyagaraja's chief contribution to Karnataka music is the 
perfection of the composition form called Kriti or Kirtana which 
was evolving at this time out of the older Prabandha and the 
immediate predecessor Pada and which comprised in itself all 
the aspects of music and displaced earlier and more ponderous 
media of rendering or preserving the Ragas in unbound or bound 
forms. In one of his Kritis, he describes what a Kriti should be 
like in form and content. In this song sogasuga in Sriranjani he 
says that the Kriti should be couched in words conveying the 
true spirit of the Upanishads, should have correctness of the 
musical notes of the Ragas in which they are set, should be 
marked by beauties of alliterations and successive increases and 
decreases of notes or syllables, should conduce to the cultivation 
of true devotion and dispassion and as literary expression, they 
should possess grace and simplicity and embody all the nine 
Rasas. He had distinguished contemporaries specialising in the 
same line—Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri, but he 
excelled them by the all-round excellence of his creations. 

Tyagaraja appeared at the crest of an upsurge of musical 
activity, in both theory and practice. The momentum had been 
set by Venkatamakhin of the closing part of the 17th century, 
the period of the last of the Nayak rulers of Tanjavur, 

. Vijayaraghava. His formulation of the seventy-two Mela scheme 
was an event of the first order of importance. The advent of the 
Mahratta rulers brought new currents with the votaries of North 



Indian music that came. Kings Shahaji and Tulaja, particularly 
the latter, knew Venkatamakhin's scheme but did not adopt it 
wholly. It was the Dikshitars-Ramaswami Dikshitar and his son 
Muthuswami Dikshitar, who took up the Venkatamakhin-thread 
from Muddu Venkatamakhin of Shahaji's time and gave the 
Venkatamakhin-scheme life and blood by composing songs in 
all its Melas (parent modes) and also in most of the derived 
Ragas (Janyas). But there was evidently a different scheme 
favoured at that time by the Telugu musicians, which came to be 
adopted in the compositions by Tyagaraja. And Tyagaraja's 
Kritis it was that made this alternate Mela scheme (Kanakangi, 
Ratnangi, etc.) stabilised and enduring to this day. 

Tyagaraja's contribution on the musical side comprises also 
new Ragas, e.g. Kharaharapriya and Harikambhoji in which he 
gave a good number of Kritis and numerous others of which the 
single pieces of his are our only guide as to their forms. Not a 
few of these appear to be his own inventions. The names even of 
many of these were not known and strangely manuscripts 
masked their names by changing their syllabic order! In the 
scheme of seventy-two Melas, some are vitiated by the 
occurrence of the dissonant note, Vivadi-svara. Some critics in 
the South and most musicians and musicologists of the North 
discountenance the Vivadi-mela Ragas. 

Even among old Ragas sung often and for long, there are at 
least two beautiful Ragas of this vivadi type. When giving the 
ten or more 'laksanas' of Ragas or points for developing Ragas, 
the texts give guidance for dealing with such cases, by 
bypassing (langhana) the concerned note or by taking it with 
Gamaka. One of the chief points in Tyagaraja's achievement as a 
composer is the artistic skill with which he has handled in his 
compositions the Ragas of this class, and imparted to them a 
form and appeal. But beyond doubt and controversy is 
Tyagaraja's expositions of the major and well-known Ragas of 
great standing, as also those that came, comparatively speaking, 
to prominence in more recent times. In Ragas where he has 
several pieces, he took off the Raga each time in a different 
appropriate starting note (graha-svara). On the whole Tyagaraja 
has handled in his Kritis about two hundred Ragas, and about 



fifty Melas under which they come. Melas under which he has 
the largest number of songs are also the most common ones, 
Todi, Mayamala-vagaula, Bhairavi, Kharaharapriya, 
Harikambhoji, Sankarabharana and Kalyani. Sankarabharana, 
among the oldest Ragas, naturally leads with the largest number 
of pieces, nearing thirty; among Ragas, which came into vogue 
in the 18th-19th centuries, Todi and Kalyani lead with about 
twenty-six and twenty pieces; the next order of frequency 
among the older Ragas is: Saurashtra (20), Saveri (19), Bhairavi 
(18), Arabhi and Madhyamavati (both 15), Varali and 
Pantuvarali (both 15), Athana and Devagandhari (both 13), 
Kedaragaula, Punnagavarali and Mohana (each 11), Ritigaula, 
Yadukula Kambhoji. Sahana and Begada (each 10), Asaveri, 
Bilahari and Ghanta (the last remarkable) (each 9), Surati and 
Mukhari (both 8), Dhanyasi, Saranga and Balahamsa (7), 
Kambhoji, Nilambari and Huseni (6), Gaulipantu and Sriranjam 
(5), Mayamalavagaula (4) and Sri (3). Those with two or only 
one piece are not analysed here. In the two Ragas, which he 
brought into prominence, Kharaharapriya has 13 songs and 
Harikambhoji, 9. The two newcomers Kapi and Darbar (not free 
from controversy) have twelve and ten pieces. 

The most remarkable feature of Tyagaraja's compositions is 
the 'variations' or Sangatis which they embody in the very 
opening of the Pallavi. These Sangatis synthesise, so to say, the 
bound and unbound forms by providing for improvisation within 
the framework of a fixed tune and setting. This Tyagaraja picked 
up doubt from Pallavi-singing on the one hand and from the 
improvisations in dance-music on the other where variations are 
done for abhinaya to bring out of different phases of the basic 
feeling. By grafting it on to his Kritis, Tyagaraja gave scope for 
the singer to bring out not only the total phases of the Raga of 
the song but also the emotional phases of the meaning of the 
prominent idea of the text of the song as given in the Pallavi. 

Some well-known and oft-sung masterpieces of his, which 
open with this cascade of Sangatis may be recalled: Sakkani raja 
marga, Rama ni samana, 0 Rangasayi, Na jivadhara. But the 
Sangatis form a part of all his songs, so much so that they have 
come to stay as part of Karnataka music itself and even the 



Kritis of other masters like Dikshitar which belong to a different 
style and aesthetics are rendered by musicians in the same 
'sangatised' style. 

Although Tyagaraja has some songs in the slow tempo, the 
medium one is his chief characteristic tempo. The medium 
tempo (Madhyama-kala) is also an adjunct of this Sangati-style 
and that tempo has also become the prevailing one for 
Karnataka singing and even Dikshitar's music which is in the 
Vainika style in slow tempo, with Gamakas as its life, is also 
spurred up to the middle and fast tempo. In fact, all Kriti- 
composition of the post-TyagaraJa composers, like Pattanam 
Subrahmanya Iyer, is after Tyagaraja's model. Thus, as in the 
case of Kalidasa, we may say of Tyagaraja too: "All that was 
before him was thrown into the-background; all that came after 
him has been on his model." 

According to tradition, Tyagaraja is said to have composed 
several thousands of songs but this is, as usual, an exaggeration. 
What we have is less than a thousand; actually about six 
hundred and seventy five are known with text and tune. Among 
these, from the purely musical aspect, we have different degrees 
of artistic aim or elaboration or excellence displayed. Reference 
has been made to the class of songs intended for congregational 
singing, in which the text dominates and the musical setting is 

There are other pieces, most of them small, falling often in 
prosodic rhythmical patterns, which even youngsters, can sing. 
There are other short pieces which are quite lively but not 
overlaid with or providing scope for elaboration, which a clever 
and mindful performing artist uses in his concert, in between 
heavy or long drawn songs, to 'ginger' up his performance. On 
top are the Kritis in which words are few and just over two 
words of the text like koluvaiyimifade, the whole melody of 
Bhairavi could be poured and poured! Here is the forte of 

Special reference should be made to five long compositions 
of Tyagaraja in the five Ghana Ragas used traditionally for 
Tana— (Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Sri, Varali), which have attained 



some special status as the 'five gems'—Pancha Ratnas. 
Structurally they are distinct. They are like the Svarajatis, with a 
series of passages of alternating Svaras and Sahitya with a 
secondary Pallavi as in Varnas. 

It is said that Tyagaraja composed these diverse kinds of 
songs to suit the pupils who came, with differing qualities of 
voice and equipment. Whether that is so or not, the variety that 
his compositions show is there and this invests his creative work 
with all-round brilliance. 

Despite his detractors already referred to, Tyagaraja's 
compositions attracted wide attention and spread to distant 
places. Tyagaraja undertook some pilgrimages, although not on 
the scale and with such avowed purpose as Muthuswami 
Dikshitar did. Except the invitation to come to Kanchi from 
Upanishad Brahmendra, there is no other evidence to show why 
he started on the pilgrimage. We do not know at what age he 
started out but if we can infer from his Todi song Dasarathi, this 
must have come some time in the late middle stage of his life. 
For Tyagaraja thanks Rama in this song for his having spread 
his (Tyagaraja's) songs and fame in distant parts. The itinerary 
took him to Tirupati, Tiruvottiyur near Madras, Kovur, another 
small place in the neighbourhood of Madras where Sundaresa 
Mudaliar of that place received Tyagaraja, and Kanchi, in the 
northern parts of Tamil Nadu; and in his own Choladesa, he 
visited Sirkali, Nagapattinam, Lalgudi near Tiruchi, and 
Srirangam. There are about forty songs of Tyagaraja on the 
‘ deities in the shrines in all these places, some of which are 
famous and popular in concerts. 

In the Todi song mentioned above, Tyagaraja gives 
expression to his gratification that in his own lifetime and with 
his own eyes and ears he enjoyed to his satisfaction the 
appreciation that his songs had gained in distant parts of the 
country. Tyagaraja realised the aim, ambition and mission of his 
life. In his Epaniko (Asaveri), he speaks of the purpose for 
which he was bom, namely, to sing of Rama; and in Daya 
chuchutaku (Ganavaridhi), he again gives vent to his joy that he 
had carried out with care and to his heart's content the mission 
that the Lord has entrusted to him. It is not possible for all artists 



to achieve this satisfaction during their lifetime. In keeping with 
his advaitic tradition and following several of his predecessors 
who illumined, in his part of the country, the three paths of 
Advaitic Jnana, Bhakti and music—^Narayana Tirtha, Sadasiva 
Brahmendra, his elder contemporary Upanishad Brahmendra 
and his own teacher Ramakrishnananda, Tyagaraja took to 
Sannyasa towards the end of his life. In two of his songs 
(Giripai in Sahana and Paritapamii in Manohari), he refers to 
Rama's promise to him to bestow Moksa on him. 

His Sannyasa is certainly one of the elements that added to 
the halo of his personality and responsible for the annual 
observance of the day of his Samadhi. Tyagaraja attained 
Samadhi on January 6, 1847 (Pusya Bahula Panchami). At his 
Samadhi in Tiruvayyaru where a shrine has been built by his 
devotees, his anniversary is a sacred day for all musicians who 
make their pilgrimage every year to this place and pay their 
homage to the master by singing his songs there. In fact, there 
are several ardent followers of his, who observe his day, 
wherever they are, every month on this fifth day of the dark fort¬ 
night (Bahula Panchami) on which he passed away, assemble 
and sing his songs before his portrait. 

Through his direct disciples, three schools, traditions or styles 
of rendering his Kritis established were the Umayalpuram 
school which is the best and most widely represented, the 
Tillaisthanam school and the Walajahpet school. The last- 
mentioned played a part on the eve and the turn of the present 
century in bringing to light Tyagaraja's compositions and 
leading to their increasing vogue in the concerts. But for the 
emergence of Tyagaraja, and along with him, of his two 
contemporaries, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri, 
Karnataka musical heritage might not have been consolidated in 
the recent past and handed down to us. Taking their stand on the 
tradition, these men of genius saw into the future, and therefore, 
although two centuries have rolled by since Tyagaraja appeared, 
he continues to be, to this day, the mainstay of Karnataka music. 
The 'Dura-desa' (distant parts of the country) where, according 
^o4iis own song (Dasarathi in Todi), his music has been made 
famous, is today a continuously expanding world. 


S. Venkitasiibramonia Iyer 

Svati Tirunal of Kerala was composer par excellence of 
Karnataka music. The richness and variety of his compositions, 
their poetic beauty and devotional fervour and the wide range of 
aesthetic patterns they present, entitle him to an exalted place 
among the composers of India. 

He was born in Trivandrum on April 16,1813, to Rani 
Lakshmi Bai and Rajaraja-Varma Koil Tampuran, of the royal 
family of Travancore, renowned for its scholarship and patronage 
of arts and letters. As there was no male heir to the throne at that 
time, he was acclaimed as Garbhasriman, a king even before birth. 
He was named Rama Varma and had the hereditary title 
'Kulasekhara', but is popularly known as 'Svati Tirunal' after the 
asterism under which he was born, in accordance with the practice 
prevalent in the royal families of Kerala. He lost his mother quite 
early in life, but under the affectionate care of his maternal aunt 
Rani Parvati Bai who acted as his Regent, and the guidance of his 
saintly father he grew up into an ideal prince. 

A liberal education was imparted to him by a team of able 
scholars led by the versatile Subba Rao of Tanjavur, who later 
became the dewan of the state. Subba Rao was proficient in music 
and its different styles and this led to the efflorescence of the 
latent musical talent in his royal disciple in due course. 
Kseerabdhi Sastri, a famous Advaita scholar of the time, initiated 
the prince into the study of philosophy. 

Svati Tirunal formally assumed charge of direct administration 
on April 21, 1829 and ruled the state for seventeen years, putting 
down corruption with an iron hand and introducing far-reaching 



reforms for the advancement of the people at large. His reign was 
marked by all-round progress and it laid the foundations for Tra- 
vancore to be a model state. Munsiffs courts were established, a 
Code of Regulations was framed, a revenue survey and settlement 
of lands was undertaken, a census of the people of the state was 
conducted, an observatory was erected, a separate Department of 
Public Works was organised, the allopathic system of medical 
treatment was introduced, and above all, realising the value of the 
English language and the wealth it has got to offer to modern 
knowledge, an English school and a public library were started. 
Arts and literature were greatly encouraged and artists and poets 
rewarded with munificence unparalleled at that time. The state 
was prosperous and the people contented and happy. 

But towards the close of his life, the Maharaja was not so 
happy. The British Crown had recognised him as a sagacious ruler 
and appreciated his progressive measures but General Cullen who 
became resident of the state in 1840 developed a hostile attitude 
towards him and began to interfere in the administration. Deaf in 
ear and blind in spirit, the General could not see eye to eye with 
the Maharaja, particularly with regard to the expenditure incurred 
in fostering fine arts, and he started sending adverse reports to the 
British Government. Svati Tirunal had the courage to show him 
his place, but the remonstrance was not of much real avail. 
Thereupon he surrendered himself at the feet of Lord 
Padmanabha, his tutelary deity, and led the rest of his short life in 
prayer and meditation, practically detached from the world. He 
left the mortal coil on December 25, 1846. 

Needless to say, it is as a composer of classical music that 
posterity cherishes most the memory of Svati Tirunal. This is due 
to the enormous quantity and the high quality of his musical 
output. But before turning our attention to this rich treasure, it is 
necessary to examine the factors that revealed his musical genius 
and moulded its manifold expression. 

There were several musicians, and some composers too, in the 
Travancore court, many of them adept in the sopana style of 
singing, characteristic of Kerala. Irayimman Tampi, the celebrated 
author of the beautiful lullaby Omanattinkalkitavo, sung in 
spontaneous expression of the joy at the birth of his patron-prince, 



was one among them. His songs, which are of considerable 
literary charm, always delighted the young prince. Karamana 
Padmanabha Bhagavatar was another. From him he learnt the 
early lessons in music. But, as stated before, his keen aptitude for 
music was largely roused by Subba Rao. He learnt the North 
Indian instrument Svarabat from Subba Rao himself and mastered 
the Karnataka and Hindustani systems of music from experts 
invited over at his instance. 

Soon creative skill began to manifest itself He came to hear 
the kirtanas of Margadarsi Sesha Ayyangar. Their devotional 
content and the musical structure with a pallavi, an anupallavi and 
three or more charanas, attracted him. The Sanskrit language in 
which they are written and the literary embellishments they bristle 
with, added to the attraction. Taking them as his model, he began 
to compose kirtanas; and based on the principles of alliteration 
and rhyme found in them, he wrote a tract in Sanskrit named 

The great wandering musician of Kerala, Satkala Govinda 
Marar, whose performance before Tyagaraja is believed to have 
inspired the saint to compose his Pancharatnakriti Endaro 
mahanuhhavulu was in the court of Svati Tirunal for some time. 
He had a repertoire of Tyagaraja's songs. Their scintillating 
beauty kindled in the Maharaja's mind the desire to invite the 
musician-saint to his court and pay him homage. His attempt at 
this did not prove fruitful, but a disciple of that great composer, 
Kannayya Bhagavatar, came and settled in Trivandrum and 
delighted the king with his master's songs. 

The death of the distinguished patron of arts. King Sarabhoji 
of Tanjavur in 1832, made many of the musicians in his court 
seek the patronage of his worthy compeer in Trivandrum, some of 
them voluntarily and others on the persuasion of persons like 
Subba Rao. Among them were the famous Vadivelu and his 
brothers known as the 'Tanjore Quartet', who influenced the 
Maharaja a great deal in his musical activity in form and 
technique. Vadivelu was a disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar and 
with him came to Travancore the majestic songs of this masterly 
composer in Sanskrit language. He was a reputed dance-master 
also and through him were brought several dancers and dance- 



troupes from Tanjavur. This gave Svati Tirunal the incentive to 
compose the forms of dance music like Varnas, Padas, Svarajatis 
and Tillanas, some of them with the collaboration of the Quartet. 
The Western instrument violin, pioneered into Karnataka music 
by Vadivelu, gained easy recognition as a conceit instrument in 
the royal court and brought him the present of a beautiful ivory 
violin from the Maharaja. 

A Maratha saint-singer named Anantapadmanabhagosvami 
alias Merusvami and called Kokilakantha because of his sweet 
and high-pitched voice, came to Trivandrum in 1836. He was a 
votary of nadavidya and an expert performer of 
harikathakalaksepa. Svati Tirunal accepted him as guru and got 
himself initiated into the secrets of higher music. Under his 
influence he also composed the Kuchelopakhyana and the 
Ajamilopakhyana, both of them in the Sanskrit language but in 
Marathi forms and tunes according to the Harikatha style. 

The liberal patronage which music enjoyed in the Travancore 
court attracted many Hindustani musicians and dancers. The 
impressionable mind of Svati Tirunal imbibed the excellences of 
the Hindustani system and attempted compositions in that also. 

All this resulted in his vast and varied contribution which, 
while bearing testimony to these influences, bears also the stamp 
of his individuality. The known compositions of Svati Tirunal 
number about 400 and comprise practically all the forms of 
Karnataka and Hindustani music. They are found in five 
languages: Sanskrit, Malayalam, Hindustani, Telugu and 
Kannada. They are all devotional in nature and almost all of them 
have his mudra Padmanabha, sometimes with the part padma 
substituted by a synonym. Most of them are in well-known ragas, 
but we also find rare ragas like Gopikavasantam, Suddhabhairavi, 
Purvakambhoji and Lalita-panchamam. North Indian ragas like 
Khamas, Bihag, Hamir-kalyani, and Kapi are also found freely 
adopted. The talas used are the common Adi, Chapu, Rupaka, etc. 
Some of these songs preserve certain rare prayogas of particular 

Among the Karnataka types it is the kirtana that is the largest 
in number. Svati Tirunal's kirtanas cover a wide range from very 



simple kirtanas like Paripahi ganadhipa in Saveri to Rasa-vilasa 
in Kambhoji with its lofty flow and intricacies of chittasvara 
interspersed with jati. They comprise pieces in fast tempo like 
Sara-saksa in Pantuvarali as well as pieces in slow tempo like 
Jagadisa sada in Natakiirinji. They are in praise of different 
deities, mainly Padmanabha. A group of nine kirtanas called 
Navaratnamalika expound the nine-fold path of bhakti, and 
another similar group called Navaratrikirtanas contain nine songs, 
six on Sarasvati and three on Durga, to be sung during the annual 
Navaratri festival. There are some songs like Karanam vina 
karyam in Kambhoji and Smara haripadaravindam in Sama which 
are in a philosophical vein. Bhavayami Raghiiramam in Saveri, 
which is of late being rendered as a ragamalika, is an epitome of 
the Ramayana, and Bhavaye Srigopalam in Punnagavarali, that of 
the Bhagavata. 

As a composer of Varnas, Svati Tirunal is unrivalled. He has 
to his credit about 30 of them, a noteworthy achievement when 
we consider the abundance of imagination and the mastery of 
melodic nuances which each one of them demands. They 
comprise tana-varnas as well as chowka-varnas and stava-varnas 
as well as pada-varnas. Some of them like Chalamela in 
Sankarabharanam and Sarasijanabha in Kambhoji, both in the 
stately Ata tala, are among his masterpieces and are perfect 
specimens of this musical form. The varna Sumasayaka in Kapi 
presents certain innovations like sangatis or progressive variations 
in the pallavi and the form of a ragamala in the last charana. 
These varnas have always been popular in Bharatanatya. To the 
class Pada he has contributed over 70 songs. Being primarily 
meant for abhinaya they beautifully portray the different aspects 
of sringara or love in all its delicate shades clothed in appropriate 
ragas to delineate the particular ideas and emotions. Alar- 
saraparitapam in Surati, Sakhi he ni gamikka in Sankarabharanam, 
Kantanotu channu in Nilambari are a few of the most popular 
padas. Svarajatis and Tillana are also essentially dance-forms of 
music, and they generally pertain to nritta or general dance as 
distinguished from abhinaya. Svati Tirunal has composed several 
of these and among them the Panchoragaswrajati beginning with 
Sa Ni Sa Re Sa in Kalyani raga is well known. 



Among Prabandhas (sustained musical story poems), besides 
the Kuchelopakhyana and Ajamilopukhyana mentioned earlier, 
we get Utsavaprabandha written in Malayalam in song mixed with 
verse, describing the festivals in the Sripadmanabhasvami temple 
in Trivandrum. 

The musical type called Ragamalika with its characteristic 
sectional chittasvara and concluding viloma-chittasvara, also has 
its contribution from him. The two pieces Pannagendrasayana and 
Kamalajasyahrita are well known. The one is a pada in theme and 
the other, a kirtana. The first is particularly noteworthy. In eight 
sections it delineates the feelings of a love-lorn lady awaiting her 
lord in the different parts of night in appropriate ragas beginning 
with Sankarabharanam, the raga of nightfall, and ending in 
Rhupala, the raga of daybreak. 

Svati Tirunal was the first South Indian composer to contribute 
to file Hindustani system. There are about 40 songs of his in this 
category and we get among them Dhrupad, Khayal and other 
forms including a ragamala. Ramachandraprabhu in 
Sindhubhairavi, Chaliye kunjanano in Vrindavanasaranga, etc., 
are well known. 

This royal composer thus made a significant contribution to 
both the main streams of Indian music. This is doubtless a unique 
achievement. The one was as dear to him as the other. With rare 
catholicity of outlook both were accorded equal treatment. His 
court musicians represented a cross-section of the whole of India. 
Along with Irayimman Tampi of Trivandrum and Paramesvara 
Bhagavatar of Palghat, there were among them, in addition to 
those mentioned before, Sulaiman Sail of Tanjavur, Gopalarayar 
of Madhyarjunam, Matrubhutayya of Tiruchirapalli, Alauddin of 
Mysore, Kasiganga of Hyderabad, Sacchidananda of Poona, 
Ramarjuna of Punjab, Lakshmanadas of Gwalior, Sukhadev of 
Ayodhya, Gaudavasudeva of Banaras, Haridas of Bengal and a 
host of others. Without distinction of caste or creed all of them 
were encouraged and treated as equals and paid incredibly high 
salaries. His court was a demonstration of the truth that music, 
and for that matter any genuine art, is unbounded by region or 
religion and its vast potentials can make it a powerful force in 
national integration. 



Although unlike his contemporary composers like Tyagaraja 
and Dikshitar, the Maharaja had no disciples, his songs attained 
great popularity as can be seen from their occurrence in several 
anthologies of music. The charm of the varnamettu or musical 
pattern of some of these compositions inspired duplicate sahityas. 
Such for instance are seve syananduresvara by Irayimman Tampi 
for Pahi mam sri vageeswari in Kalyani, Sringara lahari by 
Mysore Lingaraja for AnandawaUi in Nilambari, Samini 
rammanave and Sarasa ninu by the Tanjore quartet' respectively 
for Sa vama rusha in Khamas and Sumasayaka in Kapi, and 
Pannagadrisa of uncertain authorship for Pannagendrasayana. 
The Padmanabhasvami temple largely preserves the original 
music of Svati Tirunal. 

It was not music alone among the fine arts that was enriched 
by the Maharaja by his substantial contribution and unstinted 
patronage. The other arts also found a generous patron in him. 
Several dance-troupes came to him from all over India and got 
presents. Some of them were taken into the permanent service of 
the Palace. Painters of all styles were encouraged. A European 
artist was paid Rs. 12,000 for a portrait, an astounding sum indeed 
in those days. Some families of ivory carvers were settled in 
Trivandrum and an artistic ivory throne was made by them. A 
beautiful chariot for royal processions was devised and 
constructed. Two monuments of architecture, the Puthenmalika 
and the Rangavilas Palace, came into being at his instance. 

And not only arts. Literature also got its due share from the 
scholar-monarch. Like the musicians, poets and scholars from far 
and near visited his court and they were all suitably honoured. His 
own poetic works like the Padmanabhasataka, Syanan- 
durapuravarnanaprabandha and Bhaktimanjari bespeak his 
wonderful command of the Sanskrit language and profound 
knowledge of our religions and philosophic lore and exemplify his 
literary ability. 

Svati Tirunal lived but a short life, and it was one full of res¬ 
ponsibility. Still he was able to serve the muse and serve her in 
both her forms, poetry and music. And his achievement is re¬ 
markable. He has given us a treasure which no rasika can afford to 


P.j Sam bamoorthy 

Syama Sastri belongs to the Trinity of South Indian Music, the 
other two members of the Trinity being Tyagaraja (1767-1847) 
and Muthuswamy Dikshitar (1776-1835). A new chapter in the 
history of South Indian Music begins with the Musical Trinity. 
Sangita Kavitvam (creative music) reached the acme of perfection 
in their hands. 

Syama Sastri was born at Tiruvarur (also called Srinagar) in 
Tanjavur District in Tamil Nadu on the 26^'^ of April 1762. In the 
year 1781, he came to Tanjavur along with his father and settled 
down there. 

Syama's ancestors were not musicians; nor did they encourage 
the study and practice of music in their family. So much so, that 
when as a lad he mastered the rudiments of music from his 
maternal uncle in a very short time, nobody took any serious 
notice of it. No one dreamt that this lad of eighteen was destined 
to give to the world those immortal kriti compositions in a style 
peculiarly his own. Although he was gifted with a very melodious 
voice, the idea of giving a good musical training to him never 
occurred to his parents. But Nature plans Her own methods for the 
training of Her chosen ones. 

Even as the divine minstrel Narada came in the guise of a 
sannyasi and initiated Tyagaraja in the mysteries of music by 
presenting him with the works Svararnava and Naradiya; even as 
a sage in the person of Chidambaranatha Yogi came to 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar to inculcate the secrets of true music, so 
also a sannyasi in the person of Sangitaswami came to Syama 
Sastri, to initiate him into the mysteries of Tala and Raga. 



Sangitaswami was adept in the art of music and dance. This 
Swami was an Andhra Brahmin and in the course of his 
pilgrimage came to Tanjavur. Since the Chaturmasya period had 
just then commenced, he was obliged to stay in Tanjavur and 
spend the period of four months there. 

At the invitation of Syama Sastri's father, one day the Swamiji 
came to his house and had bhiksha there. After the bhiksha, the 
father introduced his son to the distinguished guest. The Swamiji 
at a momenfs glance noticed that the young person had rare 
musical talents. He immediately predicted the future greatness of 
Syama. The father thanked the Swamiji for his kindness in res¬ 
ponding to his invitation and requested him to bless his son. 

From the next day onwards, Sangitaswami bestowed special 
attention on the musical training of Syama and taught him the 
intricate mysteries underlying the raga and tala prastaras. Having 
acquired real scholarship in Telugu and Sanskrit languages under 
the able tutelage of his father, and possessing a keen intellect and 
a rare capacity to grasp even the most subtle and difficult 
branches of the science of music, Syama was just the pupil to 
receive instruction in the higher branches of the art from the great 
guru, Sangitaswami. He made amazing progress and soon 
mastered all the intricacies of the raga, tala and swara prastaras. 
The guru in great joy presented him with some rare musical 
granthas (works) which were a mine of information on gandharva 

Towards the close of the Chaturmasya period, the master said 
to his pupil: 

"My dear Syama, you have learnt enough of the sangita sastra 
(theory of music). Now it is time you listened to a lot of good 
music. I would particularly suggest that you cultivate the 
friendship of Pachchimiriyam Adiyappayya, the Asthana Vidwan 
of Tanjavur Samsthanam, and listen to his scholarly music as 
often as possible." So saying Sangitaswami blessed his pupil and 
resumed his pilgrimage. 

According to his guru's advice, Syama Sastri made the acquai¬ 
ntance of Adiyappayya, who in his time was adored as the king of 




Syama Sastri soon acquired great name and fame as an expert 
musician-composer. His scholarly musical compositions, 
consisting mostly of kritis and svarajatis, brought on him the war¬ 
mest encomiums even from the most uncompromising critics of 
his time. In the art of manipulating the intricate time measures he 
had no equal. He was able to handle the apurva ragas with as 
much ease as the more common ones. His first kriti "Janani 
Natajana Paripalini Pahi mam Bhavani” (Saveri raga) in Sanskrit 
reveals the genius of the rising composer. 

Syama Sastri had a majestic appearance and a commanding 
personality. He had a fine complexion and always wore a pure 
white, slightly lace-bordered cloth. The saffron mark on his 
forehead, his Rudraksha Mala mounted in gold round his neck, his 
diamond ear-rings, his bright coloured shawl, his silver-mounted 
walking stiek, his beautiful slippers all contributed to his im¬ 
pressive personality. Nobody who saw him even once forgot him. 
As he passed along the streets the people seated on the pials of the 
houses on both sides got up and paid respects to him. "Truly he is 
the king of musicians" exclaimed everyone. Such was the 
reverence and regard which one and all had for him. Tyagaraja 
and he were good friends. 

The historic musical contest between Syama Sastri and Bobbili 
Kesavayya in which the former sang a Pallavi in 
Sarabhanandanatala as a counter to the Pallavi in Simhanandana 
tala sung by Kesavayya, and emerged victorious has been 
remembered in tradition. Sarabhanandana tala comes to be known 
for the first time through his Pallavi. An avarta of this tala takes 
193/4 matras or 79 aksharakalas. The 24 angas figuring in this tala 
in their order are: guru, laghu, drutam, laghu, laghu drutam, 
anudrutam, laghu viramam, drutam, drutam, drutam, anudrutam, 
laghu drutam, laghudruta viramam, laghu viramam, drutam, 
anudrutam, drutam, anudrutam, drutam, laghu viramam, drutam, 
druta viramam, laghu drutam. There is an appropriateness in 
Syama Sastri scoring a victory over Simhanandana tala Pallavi 
with his Pallavi in Sarabhanandana. After God Narasimha slew 
Hiranya and sucked the blood of the rakshasa. He became furious. 
The Devas quaked with fear. Just at that time Paramasiva took the 
form of Sarabha, (Bird, animal and human blended into one) and 



relieved Narasimha of the rakshasa’s blood by sucking it and 
restored tranquility to Him and the world. 

Syama Sastri was a highly creative artist. His compositions are 
of sterling worth. They are in common ragas like Todi, Dhanyasi, 
Kambhoji, Yadukulakambhoji, Sankarabharanam and Kalyani and 
in uncommon ragas like Kalagada, Karnataka Kapi, Manji and 
Chintamani. He has adopted an attractive style in his kritis. His 
Sahityas are principally in Telugu and a few are in Sanskrit and 

He is the architect of the musical form, Svarajati. This was 
originally a dance form but Sastri converted it into an attractive 
musical form by eliminating passages of jatis or bols. His three 
svarajatis (a) Rave Himagiri-kumari (Todi raga—Adi tala (b) 
Kamakshi Anudinamu (Bhairavi raga-Chapu tala) and (c) 
Kamakshini Padayugame (Yadukulakambhoji raga-Chapu tala) 
stand unparalleled both for the delineation of the raga bhava and 
the fecundity of the musical ideas. In the Bhairavi svarajati the 
commencing notes of the eight charanas will be found to be in the 
ascending order to pitch Sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, sa. He has 
incidentally illustrated herein the nature of the arohana sthayi 
paddhati of raga alapana. In the Yadukulakambhoji svarajati the 
last charana is concluded with a makutam (crown-like ending) of 
three phrases of varying magnitude Khandam (5), Misram (7) and 
Sankirnam (9) R g S/m g r s n d p/m grsndpmg. This apparently 
complex grouping fits 'in very nicely into the texture of the 
composition and forms a fitting finale. These three svara-Jatis 
form a ratna-traya. (Three gems). 

Sastri has given the modern shaping to the Anandabhairavi 
raga. Anandabhairavi is an old raga. There are folk melodies and 
also lullabies in it. A perusal of the mediaeval compositions in 
Anandabhairavi will reveal the fact that many strange phrases 
which are now considered taboo, occur in them. The gita "Kamala 
Sulochana" contains many archaic prayogas i.e. phrases which 
will no more be considered as appropriate and valid in 
Anandabhairavi. Bhadrachala Ramadas has also introduced in one 
of his songs in Anandabhairavi raga the phrases Sa re ga ma ga re 
sa in the tara sthayi. Ramaswami Dikshitar, the father of 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar, has introduced the prayoga pa ni sa in the 



Chittaswara to his kriti "Amba ni Saranamu Jochchiti". Paidala 
Giirumurthi Sastri has introduced the phrases P n N S in his gita 
Pahi Sri Ramachandra in this raga. Syama Sastri steered clear of 
the track and gave the picture of Anandabhairavi as it ought to be. 
With the emergence of the raga Abheri, the phrase Pa ni sa has no 
place in Anandabhairavi. Syama Sastri's kritis (1) O Jagadamba, 
(2) Pahi Sri Giri Raja Sute, (3) Mariveregati and (4) 
Himachalatanaya Brochuta and the varna "Samini rammanave, 
Sarasakshi I vela" (Ata tala) are splendid compositions in this raga 
and mirror the varied and colourful aspects of Anandabhairavi. 
Anandabhairavi has been considered as his Sotthu i.e. as his 
property. The polished nature of his music is one of the attractive 
features of his compositions. Some of his compositions apart from 
their high entertainment value, have also a lakshana value. In the 
art of composing Swara-sahityas, Sastri stands without a parallel. 

He delighted in incorporating rhythmical beauty in his 
compositions. There is not even the slightest suggestion of any 
artificial element in the introduction of those rhythmical 
colourings. The key phrase in the field of rhythm is Ta dhim gi na 
Tom a phrase of the magnitude of 5 aksharakalas. The kriti 
'Meenalochana Brova' in Dhanyasi raga and which belongs to the 
group 'Navarat-namalika' starts after the pause of the duration of 
Ta dhim gi iiaTom. This is a very unusual feature in a musical 
composition. In his kritis, we find many words constituted of 5 
syllables, (answering to Ta dhim gi na torn) coming naturally. As 
examples of such words may be mentioned: 

(1) Anudinamu (2) Durusuganu (3) Gatiyanuchu 

(4) Japamulanu 

(7) Krupasalupu 

(10) Samayamidi 

(13) Pogadutaku 
(16) Varamosagu. 

(5) Kamalamukhi 

(8) Mahimalanu 

(11) Sarasamukhi 

(14) Padayugamu 

(6) Kamalayuga 

(9) Mahimavini 

(12) Saranamani 

(15) Tarunamidi 

Syama Sastri has popularised the Viloma (reverse) type of 
chapu tala. The normal chapu tala takes the sequence 3 plus 4. His 
composition Mari vare gati in Anandabhairavi is in the nonnal 



chapu tala. The viloma chapu tala takes the sequence 4 plus 3. His 
compositions Ninnu vinaga mari in Purvikalyani raga and Triloka 
matha nannu in Pharaz raga are very good examples. 

He has composed a few kritis which are suggestive of two 
rhythms. That means the composition can be reckoned in either of 
those two rhythms and without prejudice to musical effect. It is, 
however, clear that one of the rhythms was intended as the 
inherent rhythm and the other as the suggestive rhythm. 

The inherent rhythm is the Sthapita tala and the suggestive 
rhythm is the Suchita tala. Taking the composition, Sankari 
sankuru in Saveri raga as an example, the Rupaka tala will be the 
Sthapita tala of this song and Adi tala (Tisra Gati) will be the 
Suchita tala of this song. That the composer intended both these 
rhythms is clear from the fact that the Pallavi and Anupallavi 
conform to the Rupaka tala on their very face and the charana 
conforms to the Adi tala (Tisra Gati) in an equally clear manner. 

Atita-anagata complexities are also seen in his kritis. Syama 
Sastri had a rhythmical frame of mind and he was always 
swimming in the ethereal regions of rhythm and tala prastara. No 
other composer has composed songs answering to the rhythmical 
beauty referred to above. 

Svaraksharas occur in many places in his kritis. Svarakshara is 
the beauty signified by the confluence of the svara syllable and 
the identical or like-sounding syllable in the sahitya or words of 
the song. It is a structural beauty. As examples may be mentioned 
the following: 

(1) In the kriti Devi brova samayamide in Chintamani raga in 

the first charana we find the phrase: Nidasudu gada. Here in 

nida is the svarakshara part. 

(2) In the Kambhoji kriti Devi ni, in the phrase Pada sarasa, 

Pada sa occurs as svarakshara. 

Syama Sastri was Devibhakta. The main source of inspiration 
to him was Bangaru Kamakshi, the Deity of the Temple in 
Tanjore. He has also composed nine kritis in praise of Minakshi, 



the Deity of the Temple in Madurai. This group is called 
Navaratna-malika. The more well known compositions of this 
group are :— 

Name of the song 




S ankarabh ar an am 


Devi Minanetri 



Nanubrova Lalita 

Lalita Misra 


Minalochana Brova 



Mari Vere gati 



Devi ni pada sarasa 






He signed his compositions with the ankitam Syama Krishna. His 
style of musical writing has been compared to the Kadalipaka. 

Syama Sastri had two sons: Panju Sastri and Subbaraya Sastri. 
Of these, the latter became a fine composer. He had training in 
music under his own father and later under the great composer 
Tyagaraja. The kritis of Subbaraya Sastri are noted for the 
brilliant setting of the Svara sahityas, i.e. chitta svaras with the 
addition of appropriate Sahityas. Syama Sastri passed away on 
February 6, 1827 in his 65th year. 


T. L Venkatarama Aiyer 

South India has a rich heritage of classical music. Many are the 
composers who have contributed to it. Of them three are promi¬ 
nent and are popularly known as the trinity. They are Syama 
Sastri, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar. They were 
contemporaries and their period is rightly regarded as the golden 
age of classical Karnataka music. 

Muthuswamy Dikshitar was born at Tiruvarur in 1775. His 
father Ramaswamy Dikshitar was himself an eminent musician 
and composer who had undergone training in music under Muthu 
Venkatamakhin, a scion of the family of the great 
Venkatamakhin, the author of the music treatise Chaturdandi 
Prakasika. One of his kritis, the Ragamalika in 108 Ragas and 
Talas is unique of its kind and is a masterpiece. 

For a long number of years no child was born to Ramaswamy 
Dikshitar. It is said that the Devi Balambika to whom he offered 
worship and prayed for a son appeared before him in a dream and 
presented him with a pearl necklace. Within a year thereafter a 
son was born to him and that was Muthuswamy. Muthuswamy 
was a precocious boy. He learnt music under his father and 
became proficient in both vocal and veena music. He also became 
a scholar in Sanskrit. 

At this time, the Zamindar of Manali near Madras came to 
Tiruvarur on a pilgrimage and was so impressed by the music of 
Ramaswamy Dikshitar that he invited him co be his court 
musician. Dikshitar agreed and so the family shifted to Manali 
and settled down there. During this period the zamindar who was 
closely connected with the East India Company, used to take 



Muthuswamy Dikshitar along with him to the Fort St. George and 
there Dikshitar had occasion to listen to Western music played by 
the British Band. What use Dikshitar made of it will presently be 
seen. While at Manali, one Chidambaranatha Yogin, a Sannyasin 
who had initiated Srividya in Ramaswamy Dikshitar came over 
there and the latter invited him for Bhiksha. On that occasion 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar was asked to sing and play on the Veena 
to him. The Swami listened to his music with rapt attention and 
was immensely pleased with it. After the Bhiksha was over, the 
Yogin told Ramaswamy Dikshitar that he was going on a 
pilgrimage to Kasi and that he would like to take Muthuswamy 
with him as his Sishya. After a good deal of hesitation 
Ramaswamy Dikshitar agreed and sent his son with the Yogin to 

In the company of the Yogin, Muthuswamy Dikshitar stayed in 
Kasi. During this period the Yogin initiated him to the tantric 
form of worship of the Devi and to the practice of yoga, and also 
taught him the Upanishads. The songs of Muthuswamy Dikshitar 
bear a deep impress of this learning. Apart from this, the stay at 
Kasi had also a profound influence on his music. He had 
opportunity, there, of listening to and learning Hindustani music 
first hand and in its purity; and this knowledge is reflected in the 
style and quality of his music. Muthuswamy Dikshitar spent about 
six years in Kasi as the Sishya of the Yogin. One day when they 
came to the Ganga for bath, the Yogin said to Dikshitar: 
"Muthuswamy, get into the Ganga three or four steps down and 
tell me what you get." Dikshitar did as directed and to his surprise 
he got a Veena with the word Rama inscribed on it. He showed it 
to the Yogin who said, "So Ganga has blessed you; you will be a 
great Vinita." This Veena is still with the members of his family. 
After this, the Yogin got into the water for bath, and did not reap¬ 
pear. After a fruitless search Muthuswamy Dikshitar realised that 
the yogin had attained Mukti. He then returned to the South. 

He came to Manali only to find that his parents had left for 
Tiruvarur. The idea then struck Dikshitar that he might visit the 
shrines in the locality before returning home. He went first to 
Tiruttani and there sat before Lord Subrahmanya in contemplation 
of His glory and repeating the Shadakshara Mantra. One day at 



noon after all the pilgrims had left, while he was sitting alone, an 
elderly man appeared before him and said "Muthuswamy, open 
your eyes and tell me who I am". Dikshitar sat merely gazing at 
him silently. Then he put something in his mouth and asked him, 
"Tell me what it is." Dikshitar said, "Sir, it is sugar candy." But by 
then the elderly man had disappeared and instead there appeared 
before Dikshitar the vision of Lord Subrahmanya seated on a 
peacock with Valli and Devasena by His side and the form 
gradually disappeared into the Sanctum sanctorum. Dikshitar con¬ 
cluded that the old man who had appeared before him was no 
other than Lord Subrahmanya and that the Prasadam which He 
gave him was Jnana (knowledge). So he hailed him as his Guru 
and burst into music in praise of Him. There are eight pieces 
which he sang on this occasion. They were his first songs. 

From Tiruttani Dikshitar went to Tirupati, Kalahasti, 
Kancheepuram, Chidambaram and other holy places, composing 
songs in praise of the deities there and then went to his home at 
Tiruvarur. There he settled down and lived with his father till 
1817, when the latter died. What Muthuswamy Dikshitar saw at 
Tiruttani had produced a deep impression on him. Even before 
that the training which he had received from Chidambaranatha 
Yogin had given him a strong spiritual outlook and a discipline of 
mind and body unusual at that age. The vision of the Lord at 
Tiruttani made him completely God-minded. Thereafter he always 
thought of God, spoke of God, worshipped God. He dedicated his 
music to the praise of God. His daily life was simple. He rose in 
the early hours and practised yoga and then performed pooja. He 
would then visit temples and sing the songs composed by him on 
the deities. He would then teach music to his sishyas. In short, he 
lived the life of a saint. 

Dikshitar was not in affluent circumstances and had often to 
struggle against poverty. But he never yielded to the temptation of 
singing the praise of men and earning money. Many are the 
anecdotes which are related to illustrate this, but it is sufficient to 
refer to one of them. While he was at Tanjavur his wife pressed 
him to sing the praise of King Serfoji, who was reputed to be a 
munificent patron of arts. Dikshitar declined and wrote a kirtana 
in which, echoing the sentiments and even the language of the Sri 



Sukta, he said that he would worship Lakshmi who could give 
him imperishable wealth and not seek small men. (Hiranmayam 
Lakshmim in Raga Lalita). He sang the kirtana in the 
Rajagopalaswarni temple and that very night Lakshmi appeared 
before him in a dream and blessed him. This appears in his 
kirtana, 'Mangala Devataya" in Raga Dhanyasi. 

The fame of Muthuswamy Dikshitar as a great composer soon 
spread all around and he received many invitations for visiting the 
numerous sacred places in South India. Dikshitar readily 
responded to them and travelled far and wide, visiting Famous 
shrines and writing songs on the deities there. Indeed his life can 
be described as one of life-long pilgrimage to temples. In this 
respect he is placed alongside the Saivaite saints who sang the 
Tevarams and the Vaishnavaite saints who sang the Prabandhams; 
he sang of all the deities, Saivaite and Vaishnavaite, without 
distinction. While he was at Tiruvarur, some persons from 
Madurai invited him to go over to that place and sing songs on 
Meenakshi and teach his kirtanas to the musicians there. Dikshitar 
promised to do so later, and on their suggestion he sent his two 
younger brothers, Chinnaswamy and Baluswamy, with them to 
Madurai to teach his compositions. Dikshitar then left for 
Tanjavur. There he spent a number of years in the company of 
Syama Sastri. It was during this period that Ponniah, Vadivelu 
and then brothers learnt music under him. They became 
subsequently famous as court musicians and dance-masters in 
Tanjavur and in Trivandrum and as composers. 

Muthuswamy Dikshitar then left for Madurai. There he 
learnt that one of his brothers, Chinnaswamy, had died and that 
the other had left for Rameswaram. Dikshitar spent some months 
in Madurai and composed several Kirtanas in praise of Meenakshi 
and Sundareswara. Then he started on a journey to Rameswaram 
and visited, en route, Azhagar Koil and sang the Kirtana ”Shri 
Sundararajam" in praise of the deity there. Then he went to 
Rameswaram and there composed songs in praise of Ramanatha 
and Parvatavardhini and also visited Darbhasayanam and sang 
"Sriramam". At Rameswaram he learnt that his brother 
Baluswamy had been there, that the Raja of Ettayapuram who had 
come there had liked his music and had taken him along as his 



court musician. So Muthuswamy Dikshitar started on a journey to 

It was then midsummer, and Dikshitar had to travel through 
dry regions. Feeling thirsty he stopped at the outskirts of a village 
and taking rest under a tree, he asked his sishya to go into the 
village and fetch drinking water. Shortly thereafter his sishya 
returned along with the local magnate, who prostrated before him 
and presented him with fruits and drink. Dikshitar asked him 
about the famine conditions prevailing there, to which he replied 
that the country had been undergoing great sufferings owing to 
continuous droughts. Dikshitar immediately went into the temple 
in that place and performed Pooja to the Devi and sang a kirtana 
'Ananda amrithakarshini' in Raga Amrithavarshini and finished 
with an invocation "Varshaya, Varshaya, Varshaya" (Pour rain, 
pour rain, pour rain). A miracle happened; clouds gathered and 
there were heavy rains which gave relief to the whole locality. 

Dikshitar then resumed his Journey to Ettayapuram. The news 
of his arrival had preceded him. The enlightened Maharaja was 
waiting with his paraphernalia a mile in advance of the town to 
give him a fitting reception. Baluswamy Dikshitar, the brother of 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar, was seated by the side of the Maharaja. 
Dikshitar was overwhelmed with joy at the sight of his brother 
and was delighted to know that he was going to be married 
shortly. The Maharaja of Ettayapuram, who was himself a 
composer of classical music, requested Dikshitar to settle down at 
Ettayapuram as his Guru. Dikshitar had an only daughter whom 
he had given away in marriage, so he decided to live with his 
brother at Ettayapuram. While there, be visited the famous 
temples of Subrahmanya at Tiruchendur and at Kazhugumalai and 
of Kanthimati and Salvatiswara in Tirunelveli and of Sasta at 
Sabarimalai and several other shrines. He wrote kirtanas on the 
deities in all these places. 

His end came some time in the month of Tula in the year 
Manmatha, 1834, September-October. An elephant of the 
Ettayapuram Palace called ’Gangeya' became wild and breaking 
all fetters, marched to the cremation ground and stood there. The 
Maharaja who heard this was alarmed, thinking that it foretold 
some calamity. So he straightaway went to Muthuswamy 



Dikshitar and relating to him what had happened, asked for his 
blessings. Dikshitar went into contemplation and in the Samadhi 
had a vision of Annapurneswari of Kasi. He remembered what 
Chidambaranatha Yogin had told him, that She would give Mukti 
to him and so concluded that his end was near. He opened his 
eyes and told the Maharaja: "Maharaja, no harm will come to 
you." Then the Maharaja asked: "Will any harm come to my 
Kingdom ?” "No", said Dikshitar. The Maharaja went away in 
great delight. Then Dikshitar performed Pooja as usual and 
thereafter the sishyas assembled and began to sing. He asked them 
to sing the piece "Meenakshi me mudam". After they had 
finished, he told them: "Sing it again. It looks as if the Devi will 
give me Mukti." They sang again and when they were singing 
"Meenalochani Pasamochani" in the Anupallavi, he quietly 
shuffled off his mortal coil. The royal elephant also then left the 
cremation ground. The Maharaja who heard the news returned 
sorrow-stricken, and paid his last homage to him and had him 
cremated at a place specially chosen. His Samadhi can be seen at 
Ettayapuram even today. That, in brief, is the life-story of 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar. 

Turning now to the music of Muthuswamy Dikshitar, the most 
outstanding quality is its richness of Raga Bhava. It is this that 
gives him a place among the great composers of India. It should 
be noted that the concept of Raga is the most distinctive 
contribution of India to the world of music. Beautiful songs are to 
be found all the world over but the notion of Raga as distinct from 
a song is distinctly Indian. "Raga" is a sound picture, a melody, 
which has distinctive features differentiating one from other 
melodies. Those who are brought up in the tradition can 
distinguish one melody from another as easily as they can one 
person from another. Indeed our tradition considers Ragas as 
divine personalities. 

Tyagaraja describes Nada as the body of Lord Siva. 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar describes Devi as of the form of the 
twenty-two Srutis and Swaras. The featuring of Raga, Raga 
Alapa, has always been considered to be the highest form of art 
music. It transcends words and consists of Akara-sounds and 
when syllables are used in the rendering of Ragas, they are non- 



significant and serve only as aids in portraying the Raga. Now the 
greatest merit of the songs of Dikshitar is the featuring of the 
Raga-forms in all their purity and richness. 

Dikshitar shares with Tyagaraja the distinction of having 
handled the largest number of Ragas. In familiar Ragas like Todi, 
Bhairavi, Sankarabharana, Kalyani and Kambhoji, he has, like 
Tyagaraja, composed a number of songs bringing out the beauty 
of the Ragas in all their aspects. Then there are certain rare Ragas 
for which we get a complete picture in the kirtanas of Dikshitar. 
Such are, for example, Mangalakaisiki, Ghanta, Gopikavasanta, 
Narayana-Gaula and others. Then again there are many Ragas 
which live only in the kritis of Dikshitar, as for example, 
Chayagaula, Poorvi, Padi, Madhuri, Sudha Vasanta, Kumudakriya 
and others. Dikshitar has composed kirtanas in all the 72 Mela 
Ragas and what is of special interest in them is that in rendering 
the Vivadi Melas he has, following the Gitas of Venkatamakhin, 
avoided Sam-purna scales in Arohana and Avarohana, and has 
thus avoided dissonant and discordant Sancharas. As examples, 
the kirtana in Kanakambari in the first Mela and Kalavati in the 
thirty-first Mela, might be mentioned. 

In appreciating the music of Dikshitar it should be 
remembered that he was primarily a Vainika and vocal music was 
rendered only to the accompaniment of Veena. To this must be 
ascribed two of the distinctive features of Dikshitar's music: 
firstly his songs are mostly in Vilambakala (slow tempo) with a 
few Madhyamakala Sancharas (medium tempo phrases) towards 
the end and secondly they are rich in Gamakas (graces). There is a 
limit within which the tempo can, consistently with Raga Bhava, 
be accelerated in Veena, and there are many Gamakas which can 
be rendered in excelsis in that instrument. 

The handling of Hindustani Ragas by Muthuswamy Dikshitar 
is another notable feature of his music. The Karnataka music has 
at all times been enriching itself by adopting and assimilating 
Hindustani Ragas. That process can be seen in the compositions 
of Purandaradas and Venkatamakhin. These Ragas, however, had 
as a result of isolation, suffered some changes in Karnataka 
music. Muthuswamy Dikshitar had, during his stay in Kasi, 
acquired firsthand knowledge of these Ragas and his rendering of 



them is more faithful to the original, and has elicited appreciation 
in Hindustani music circles. His compositions in these Ragas are 
among the masterpieces of Indian music. Such, for example, is the 
piece 'Jambupate' in Yamunakalayani, 'Parimala Ranganatham' in 
Hamirkalyani, 'Rangapuravihara' in Brindavana Saranga. 

The influence of Hindustani music can be seen not only in the 
Ragas handled by Dikshitar but also in the Gamakas used by him. 
Some of them like Jaru, for example, though common to both 
systems, figure prominently in the Hindustani music and Dikshitar 
also has made good use of them. 

While the influence of Hindustani music on the music of 
Muthuswamy Dikshitar was immense, that of the Western music 
was limited. One Mr. Brown, a Collector, liked so much the rich 
and sonorous Sanskrit Sahitya in his songs that he requested him 
to clothe English songs in Western music with Sanskrit garb. 
Dikshitar took up the tunes which he had heard played by the 
Band in Fort St. George, Madras and gave them a Sanskrit Sahitya 
in praise of the Hindu gods. Thus "God save the King" became 
"Santatam pahi mam, Sangita Syamale". There are about 50 songs 
like this in which Sanskrit Sahitya has been substituted for 
English words. 

Like Ragas, the "Talas" of Indian music are one of its 
distinctive features. There can be no great composition without a 
command over them. Dikshitar was a master of Talas and is the 
only composer who has written kirtanas in all the seven basic 
Talas of the Karnatak system. 

Turning next to the textual contents of the songs, they are all in 
praise of the deities and their Rasa is Bhakti. But the Bhakti is 
informed by Jnana (knowledge) and the emotional appeal is 
subdued and undemonstrative. Dikshitar was steeped in the 
Vedanta as interpreted by Sankaracharya and that may be thus 
summed up:The Creator, the Parabrahma, is one and omnipotent; 
He transcends Name and Form; all the deities worshipped are 
only manifestations of the Parabrahman; the object of their 
worship is to enable us to withdraw our minds from attachment to 
the material world and concentrate upon a Form conceived as 
divine; and the Saguno-pasana (worship of personal God) is but a 



Step in the realisation of the Nirgunabrahma (impersonal 
Absolute) within us. It is with this mental approach that Dikshitar 
visited the shrines of all the deities and sang their praise. The 
songs contained both these elements; there are personal 
descriptions of the deity and these are followed by a description of 
It as transcending Name and Form. A typical description is that of 
Santanaramaswamy as "Saguna-Nirguna-Swarupam". It can 
easily be seen that with this approach there is no room for those 
emotional outbursts which move and thrill us in the songs of 
Tyagaraja. There is a calm and repose in the kirtanas suggestive 
of Brahmananda. The Vilambakala in which the songs are cast is 
well suited for this Bhava. To hear Dikshitar's music is to forget 
all our materialistic affiliations and to lose ourselves in bliss. 

Dikshitar believed that worship of the deities and Pooja would 
discipline the mind and give it a spiritual bent. He was a devotee 
of the Pen and his Navavaranakirtanas are an impressive 
expression, in Music, of the Tantric worship. He has also 
composed Navagraha kirtanas in praise of the planets. In brief all 
the three courses, which are prescribed for spiritual 
development—Karma, Bhakti and Jnana, had a place in his daily 
life but he gave the pride of place to Jnana. 

Then as regards the Sahitya of the songs, they are for the most 
part in Sanskrit and a few in Telugu and Tamil. Given the nature 
of the music in the kritis of Dikshitar, nothing could be more 
appropriate than the adoption of Sanskrit by him. In the songs of 
Tyagaraja emotion plays an important part and that is why he has 
generally adopted Telugu as the proper vehicle of expert 
expression. But in the songs of Dikshitar it is aesthetic excellence 
of the Raga Sancharas that plays a dominant role. In his kritis the 
Sahitya has a value not so much for its sense as for its tonal 
quality. For richness of sound Sanskrit is unmatched and that is 
why Dikshitar has preferred it. The music of Dikshitar has a 
grandeur and sublimity all its own and that is due in no small 
measure to the Sanskrit diction which he adopted. And further it is 
only Sanskrit that can bring out adequately the transcendent 
Vedantic concepts expressed in his songs. 

Dikshitar shows his knowledge of Sanskrit. He has composed 
songs in all the eight Vibhaktis (cases). It has sometimes been 



said that his Sahitya lacks poetic quality. But one should 
remember that in music the emphasis is not so much on the sense 
as on the tonal quality of the words. There might be good poetry 
which makes poor music, and conversely good music which 
might lack poetry. Dikshitar has paid special attention to sound 
values and has used Sabdalankaras such as Prasa and Anuprasa 
for that purpose and has also used certain Alankaras such as 
Gopuchha and Srotovaha for enhancing the musical value of the 
songs. For illustration, reference may be made to the songs 
Tyagaraja yoga vaibhavam, Maye, and Srivaralakshmi. 

To conclude, for richness of Raga Bhava, for sublimity of their 
philosophic contents and for the grandeur of the Sahitya, the 
songs of Dikshitar stand unsurpassed. And when we find that he 
has a mastery over not merely Karnataka music but also over 
Hindustani music, and that he has composed songs not only on the 
shrines of South India but also on Viswanatha, Visalakshi, 
Annapurneswari temples of Kasi, on Ganga and on Pasupatiswar, 
the realisation must come to us that he is a composer for all India 
and for all times. 


Chaitanya P.Desai 

Culture, says Professor Maciver, is the expression of people 
living and thinking in everyday intercourse, in art, in literature, in 
religion, in recreation and enjoyment. That is why one feels that 
the composite character of Indian culture is its own explanation. 

In the eleventh century, in the reign of Ghaznavis, Lahore became 
a center of Persian culture. Free intercourse became possible 
between Persia, Afghanistan, Transoxania, Khurasana and Punjab. 
Persian was the language of communication and of office. Turko- 
Persian nobles, scholars, artists and saints migrated first to Punjab 
and then to Delhi, Gujarat and finally up to the Deccan, carrying 
with them the elements of Persian culture. As a result of their long 
stay in India, they also absorbed some elements of the Indian 
culture and a fusion of the two cultures took place. This is 
reflected by the paintings and architecture of that era. The saints 
who migrated to India generally belonged to the Sufi sect and 
their Sufism became moulded after the Indian fashion. 

Some Persian musicians were in the service of the Sultans and 
Mughals of Delhi and so Indian music had the chance to 
assimilate impressions of Persian music. Persian contact is felt 
mainly in the North, somewhat in Gujarat and to a lesser extent in 
the Deccans. 

This so called Indo-Persian culture which attained its highest 
phase in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries in the time of the 
Mughals, waned gradually after them. But even today we find 
signs of this fusion in the doctrine of Sikhism and in Urdu poetry. 
No doubt, the Khari Boli, which later developed into Hindi, was 
also a result of this. 



Amir Khusrau the poet, was the foremost visionary of that 
age, and contributed most to the fusion of the two cultures. 
Khusrau’s ancestors were Turks — “Hazara” of Lachin , a warrior 
clan who had come from Tansoxania or Khorasan, and stayed in 
India for several generations. Amir Khusrau was bom in 1253. 
His mother was of Indian origin. Khusrau’s father Amir Saifiiddin 
Mahmud, a noble, was in the military service of Samsuddin 
Iltutmish. The family was settled at Patiyali, a small town in the 
district of Etah, otherwise known as Mum inpore or Maminabad. 
Khusrau’s maternal grandfather was “Rawal-Ard” i.e. in charge of 
the royal horses. He also held the emblem of authority in political 
matters. Khusrau had two brothers. From a tender age he was 
given personal lessons in theology and Koran, besides regular 
lessons in Persian language. He was also taught Arabic, logic, and 
some fine arts, notably calligraphy and poetry. About the latter he 
himself has stated : At a tender age I began to compose verses that 
roused the admiration and wonder of my elders.^ 

His upbringing and participation in the society of the learned 
afforded him wholesome opportunities to listen to intellectual 
discourses of erudite scholars, recitals of poetry and repertoires of 
reputed musicians. Khusrau was a bom poet. His compositions 
won him willing princely patronages, even at the young age of 
twenty. He served as poet -laureate to at least six Sultans, the last 
being Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. 

In 1284, Khusrau became a full-fledged Sufi under the tutelage 
of the famous Chishtiya Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya and 
henceforth, his heart was set on things beyond worldly intrigues 
and ambitions. 

The saint soon conceived a strong liking for Khusrau. Khusrau 
applied all his thoughts to the realm of spiritual bliss and 
devotion, and his association with the saint gave his poetry a new 
strength and vigour, a divine glow and fire. 

Some years later, the 95 years old saint died after a long 
illness. Khusrau heard the sad news when he returned to Delhi 
from Oudh and the final separation broke the heart of the aged 
poet. It is said that on hearing the news, he rent his garments, 

* Dr.M.W.Mirza, The life and works of Amir Khusrau (Calcutta 1935^, p.20 



blackened his face and recited the following couplet at the grave 
of his master and fell down in a swoon: 

"Gori sowe sej par, mukh par dare kes, 
chal Khusro ghar apne, rain bhayi sab des!" 

Khusrau declared that he would soon join his master, 
according to the latter’s prophecy. In a few days, Khusrau also 
died. According to his master's wish, his body was buried outside 
the cupola of the saint's grave. Both the graves have become a 
place of pilgrimage. Khusrau's grave bears the following 

"Mir Khusrau, the king of poesy's realm, the ocean of accom¬ 
plishment and sea of perfection".’ 

Devotees visit and worship both the shrines, by strewing 
flowers and lighting lamps on them. Qawwals hold Khusrau as 
their master. We also come across some traditional dhrupads and 
Khyals, in praise of saint Nizamuddin, such as: 

"Tu hai mommadasa darabar, 

Nizamuddin sujaan" etc. 

Two more Khyal geets in Raga Purbi in praise of Auliya are as 

(i) Charan parasat eri anand. 

(ii) Aiso pir Jara jarojar baksan 
Nizamuddin Auliya, e dhan dhan. 

Persian verse in India began to be written a \ the age of 
Ghaznavi by poets who migrated to India or were born in India. 
Khusrau speaks very highly of one or two of his predecessors. But 
Amir Khusrau was the greatest of them all. His fame spread far 
and wide, even to Persia. He has composed nearly sixteen works 
of poetry in Persian. He wrote his best poems at the ripe age of 

Five of his long poems are based on historical themes in which 
he describes military campaigns and gives interesting details 
about the country and particularly about Delhi. He was not a 
historian, still he has thrown much light on the social conditions 
of the time and has given a general picture of the country. One 

' Ibid, pp.134-136, 138 



poem Ashiqa, deals with the love-story of Khidrakhai and Dewal 
Rani, the captured princess of Gujarat, and is full of the poet's 
patriotism and love for his motherland. Another poem, Aina-i- 
Sikandari, descriptive of the campaign of Alexander the Great, 
gives much information about various inventions of Greeks such 
as sun-meter, looking glass, cotton tents, etc. 

In his poetry, he has also expressed his thoughts about 
common people and common things. In his poem Ghurrat-ul- 
kamal, he has addressed some stanzas to such persons as the 
fisherman, tavern keeper, weaver and tailor.^ 

Khusrau was also a prolific writer of Persian prose. He has 
compiled three prose works. One of them rjaz-i-Khusravi, is a 
voluminous work, containing five chapters, the last one being 
written at the age of seventy. In the work— Tarikh-i-Alai, he has 
described the historical events of Ala-ud-din's first sixteen years 
of reign. According to Firishta and Nizamuddin, the poetry in 
Hindi (or 'Hindui') was composed as early as the time of Mahmud 
of Ghazna. The old biographers and anthologists mention that 
Khusrau had also composed poems in Hindi. Recently a small 
collection of Khusrau's Hindi poems has been published. But 
there is no proof that these poems, vulgar and funny, were 
composed by Khusrau and the authorship is disputed by modern 
scholars on linguistic grounds. This does not mean that he did not 
know Hindi well or did not use it in daily talk. His statements 
show that he knew Hindi better than Arabic and he was also proud 
of it. At one place he says: 

"I am an Indian Turk and can reply to you in Hindi. I have no 
Egyptian sugar to talk of Arabia and Arabic. As I am in fact the 
parrot of India, question me in Hindi, that I may talk sweetly".^ 

Khusrau's writings give ample proof that he was a lover of 
music and knew Persian and Indian systems and perhaps practised 
both to some extent. Being in the court service for a long time, he 
had numerous opportunities to listen to good music and he was 
also intimately acquainted with many musicians. Thus he was a 

* Ibid, p. 166 
^ Ibid, pp.227-228 



great connoisseur of music. About his knowing the science of 
music, he himself has said at one place: "If I were to write on 
music, I could have composed three volumes on that science 
too."^ One chapter of his work Fjaz-i-Khusrawi deals with music, 
musicians and musical instruments of his time. He has mentioned 
one female musician, Turmati Khatun, who became the head of 
the royal music department, through the influence of Khusrau. 
The names of musical instruments he has given are as follows: 
Abab-rud, Rabab, Tanbur, Nay, etc. The names of the court 
musicians he has mentioned are: Mohammad Shah, Kunjashk, 
Khalifa Husaini Akhlaq, etc.^ Among these Mohammad Shah was 
a chang (Kanun) player. It seems from the description given by 
Khusrau that the Delhi Sultans patronized Gazal-Qawwali music 
more than classical Indian music. This writing on music by 
Khusrau does not throw much light on the musical system of his 
time or his knowledge of it. 

Some authors of old give credit to Kliusrau for introducing 
Persian melodies and blending Indian Ragas with Persian airs and 
making innovations which revolutionised the Indian music. The 
writer Shibli, in his Shir-ul-Ajam says : "Khusrau's versatile 
genius turned to this fine art too and raised it to such a degree of 
excellence that he has remained unrivalled during the long period 
of six hundred years." The same writer has narrated the contest 
between Khusrau and the famous Southern musician, Gopal 
Nayak. Shibli has also given a list of Persian melodies, which 
were mixed with Indian Ragas by Khusrau to form new Ragas but 
the mixing seems to be imaginary. 

Wajid Ali Shah, in his Saut-el-Mubarak holds Khusrau as the 
Nayak of Khyal and inventor of Tarana. He further declares: 

"Khusrau's inventions destroyed all the regulations and 
instruments established for a thousand years, while his disciples in 
their audacity vied with the Kalavants, the representatives of the 
old system, that dates back to the time of Mahadeo." Needless to 
say, the statements of these writers are exaggerated and baseless. 

' Ibid, p. 146 
-Ibid, p.218 

^ Elliot, History of India, Vol III, p.566 



Khusrau, who has described commonplace incidents and details of 
his life and work, would not have kept silent about his great 
achievements in the art of music. Abul Fazal in his Airi’i-Akbari 
says, "Kowl and Taraneh were composed by Amir Khusrau with 
the assistance of Samut and Tetar. They are a delightful mixture 
of the Persian and Hondive style". (The translation is by Francis 
Gladwin.). These Samut and Tetar must be musicians. It is 
remarkable that Abul Fazal, Raja Khan, Fakirulla and all the Urdu 
writers on music have followed the Hindu system and not Persian. 
Some writers hold Khusrau to be the inventor of the instrument 
Sitar. But the name Sitar is not found in the works of Khusrau or 
of his successors. Though fretted string instruments have been 
mentioned by Abhinavagupta (tenth century) in his commentary 
on Natyasastra^ the traditional Raga-music in the form of Dhrupad 
singing was in full swing at the time of Akbar the Great, and 
dominated the field of music up to the 18th century when the 
Khyal style began to emerge from it slowly.^ Dhrupad style was 
in vogue also in the Deccan at least up to the time of Ibrahim 
Adilshah of Bijapur (1580-1627). Persian music until today is far 
below the standard of Indian Raga music and so the former has 
nothing of importance to impart to the latter. But at the time of 
Khusrau and thereafter, some Persian melodies, to which 
Khusrau’s Qawwalis were set up, must have been adopted by 
Indian music and it is possible that Khusrau might have been 
responsible for their introduction. Sarangadeva, the contemporary 
of Amir Khusrau, has mentioned two such melodic forms of 
Turkish origin, viz., Turushka-Gaod and Turushka-Todi,^ which I 
guess to be the current Ragas, Yaman and Todi, respectively, two 
of our best Ragas. 

Khusrau himself was also of the opinion that Indian music was 
far more developed than and superior to the music of any other 
country, as he has stated in his work Nuh Sipihr (the nine skies): 

"The musical system originated in India. And Indian music, 
the fire that burns heart and soul, is superior to the music of any 
other country. Foreigners, even after a stay of 30 to 40 years in 

‘G.D.S. Vol IV, p.l8 

■ See my article on Khyal, Music Academy Journal. Madras, 1969 
^ Sangeet Ratnakar (Adyar, first edition), Vol I p.92, 97 



India cannot play a single Indian tune correctly. Indian music 
charms not only men, but beasts too"\ On another occasion, some 
musicians had come from Khorasan and Khusrau wanted to invite 
Indian musicians to compete with them, so that "The dove- 
pigeons of Bala should know how the Indian birds sing". It is also 
possible that the Qawwali music which was developed at the time 
of Khusrau, had borrowed some peculiarities of Persian style, viz., 
some shades, twists and even tanas and these peculiarities might 
have penetrated into Khyal style. But some hundred years must 
have been required for the process of this assimilation, as the 
Khyal style established its personality in the 18th century. 
Therefore, it will be wrong to hold Khusrau as the Nayak (master) 
of the Khyal style. Certainly, he was not the innovator or even 
promoter of the Khyal style, as is generally believed. As Khusrau 
himself realised Indian music to be superb and perfect, he would 
have never thought of meddling with it. 

Khusrau was a religious man. He had a sense of humour, 
carried his sorrows lightly, could see what was ridiculous and 
laughed at it, yet he showed no malice. He had few racial, 
religious or social prejudices, but had more tolerance which was a 
rare quality in his age. He was, no doubt, proud of his Turkish 
descent, but at the same time, he loved India. It was but natural 
that he had a contempt for the conquered race and for their rites 
and temples. At the same time, he is touched by their grievances 
and admires their devotion and faithfulness. He has praised the 
warlike exploits of their conquerors. He was generous with his 
money. As he had no prejudices, he acquired popularity. He did 
not like falsehood and hypocrisy. He had many friends, and he 
was sought after and liked by everyone. The assembly seemed as 
if lighted by his presence. He had to pass from one patron to 
another, tune his lyre to a different tune every time and to sing 
praises of a murderer as those of his victim! But he should not be 
judged solely by such odes of his.^ 

Khusrau had not said much about his family life, but we can 
know from his writings that he was married happily and had 
several children, whom he loved. He also speaks tenderly of his 

’Dr.M.W.Mirza, The life and works of Amir Khusrau (Calcutta, 1935), p.l85 
^Ibid, p.233-234 



brother and his children. He has addressed a whole chapter of 
Hasht Bihisht to his daughter. But he loved and cared for his 
mother the most.’ Khusrau loved the country, its sky, moonshine, 
the stars, its flowers, its dark beauties, its language and learning. 
In his work Nur Sipihr he has put forward the following 
arguments to prove the superiority of Hindu knowledge: 

"Why, some may ask me, all this preference for India? But, 
what praise can there be for what has already been so highly 

praised? .I know that in this land lie the wisdom and ideas 

beyond dispute. Greece has been famous for its philosophy, but 
India is not devoid of it. All branches of philosophy are found 
here: logic, astrology, dogmatic theology, in fact, every science, 
except 'faqr' (sufism) is found. Though they do not believe in our 
religion, many of their beliefs are like ours. They believe in the 
unity and eternity of one God, His power to create after 
nothingness, etc... They worship, no doubt, stones, beasts, plants, 
the sun, but they recognise that these things are creations of 

God. Knowledge and learning are common and widespread 

among them. They can speak all the languages of the world. 
Learned men from all parts of the world have come from time to 
time to study in India, while no Brahmin has ever travelled to any 
place outside India".^ 

This statement of Amir Khusrau is indicative of his liberal 
thinking and greatness of heart! We can even go so far as to con¬ 
sider Amir Khusrau as the emblem of national integration. 

' Ibid, p.235 

^Ihid, pp. 183-185 ifek: 


K. C. D. Brahaspati 

Historical information about Tansen, the great musician, who 
lived in Akbar’s court and was considered a rare jewel, are found 
in many historical memoirs and writings from which much 
authentic information has been gained. Of these writings the most 
significant are those written during the reigns of Akbar and his 
son Jahangir. During Shahjahan's reign too, there were some 
discerning lovers, scholars and musicians who had known Tansen 
and the tradition and style of his music. These accounts constitute 
valuable material for the assessment of Tansen's genius and 
personality in the proper historical perspective. 

Tansen’s parentage, place of birth and religious affiliations 
have different versions—a queer mixture of the imaginary and 
the authentic. An attempt is made here to give a correct esti- mate 
of Tansen the man, and Tansen the musician. In addition to 
historical writings bearing on the subject, reference also will be 
made here to a rare collection of Tansen's compositions in the 
Gwalior tradition. 

In his book Aw-i-Akhari, Abul Fazal has enumerated many 
categories, groups or classes of musicians, among which are 
mentioned Dharhi, Qawwal, Hudakiya, Dafzan, Natawa, 
Kalawant and Kirtaniya. The last alone were called by Abul Fazal 
as Brahmins. In this classification the title Kalawant is a special 
category representative of expert, professional musicians, 'in 
works like Ain-i-Akbari, Tarikhe-Muhammadi and others, Tansen 
has been designated as a "Kalawant" or "Kalaunt". It may be 
mentioned here that Brahmins as a community never adopted 

' Ain-J-Akban, translator, Gladwyn, p.l34. Section 2 



music as a lucrative profession of a mercenary kind as it was 
forbidden by the sacred Smritis. To the Brahmin, from time 
immemorial, music was primarily a means of devotion, and only 
secondarily a profession. 

According to Ain-i-Akbari Tansen belonged to Gwalior.^ In 
one of his Dhrupad compositions also Tansen has praised that 
place,^ as Garh Gopachal (Gwalior). According to tradition, 
Tansen vas born in a place called Behat near Gwalior. 

Tansen's date of birth has been a subject of endless 
controversy. In this respect, the available historical evidence can 
be stated thus:— 

(a) According to Abul Fazal, before 1562, Tansen was in the 
service of Raja Ram Chandra of Rewa and was thinking of 
retirement. In that age of health and vigour, Tansen must have 
been an active man of seventy years of age at that time. This leads 
us to the reasonable surmise that he must have been born around 
1492 or so. 

(b) It is said that in 1575 or so Tansen's voice had become very 
discordant and harsh"^ probably due to extreme old age as he must 
have been then in his early eighties. Hence his year of birth must 
have been around 1492. 

(c) Raja Mansingh Tomar of Gwalior died in 1516. Tansen had 
composed many Dhrupad compositions in praise of this illustrious 
ruler and in one of these, he had called him his benevolent 
patron.^ A fine and mature composer of excellent Dhrupad 
compositions like Tansen must not have been less than twenty- 
five years of age at that time. This fact also would go to establish 
the year of his birth around 1492. 

Tansen was a Hindu and remained a Hindu all his life. Music 
accompanied his funeral procession.^ Demonstration of joy at the 

' Ibid, translator, Blockman 

Raga-mala, a collection of Kudan Singh gharana, p.lSA 
^ Akbar-nama, translator, Beveridge, sec2, p.279 
^ Muntakhabuttawarikh, Badaun, translator. Author, p.273, sec 2 
^Akbari Durbar Ke Hindi Kavi (The Hindi Poets of Akbar ’s Court), p.l 10 
^ Akbar-nama, p.880, sec.2 



death of old venerable people through music sung and played 
along with the funeral procession, is a pure Hindu custom. More¬ 
over, even Hindus who were associated intimately with Sufi saints 
or poets, were entitled to "Miyan" as a prefix or a suffix. 

While other Sufi traditional orders had banned music, the 
Chisti Sufi Order has admitted it into its fold. It is due to the 
blessings of Shaikh Saleem Chisti of Sikri that Jahangir was born. 
Akbar was a true devotee of this well-known Sufi saint and he 
was chiefly promoted by his own devotion to him to make Sikri 
his capital from 1571 to 1585. Tansen, at this time, was Akbar’s 
court musician and had the opportunity to visit the saint and sing 
before him. The saint, it may be recalled, was very fond of his 

As regards Shaikh Mohd Ghaus, Tansen had probably no 
direct association or link with him. Historical Sufi writings 
connected with Mohd Ghaus make no mention of Tansen. 
According to the author of the work Masirul-Umara, Mohd 
Ghaus had written his distinguished work Jawahire-Khams in 929 
Hijri (1523) when he was twenty-two years of age. This proves 
that he was born in 1501 or so. Thus he was eight or nine years 
junior to Tansen in age and could not have been the latter's 

In view of these facts, the legends about Tansen's birth as a 
result of the blessings of Mohd Ghaus and Tansen's tomb in 
Gwalior, give rise to a historical controversy yet to be resolved. It 
is, moreover, a fact that Shaikh Mohd Ghaus and his brother 
Shaikh Gadayee had lost the favour of Akbar's court and were 
treated as 'persona non grata'.^ 

It is just possible that Tansen became a disciple-devotee of 
Shaikh Saleem Chishti, for which a change of religion was not 
necessary. There are many examples of non-Muslim devotees of 
the Sufi saints and Muslims deeply moved and influenced by the 
Vaishnava cult. 

A man called Makarand of Gwalior is said to have been 

Ibid, pp. 133-135 




Tansen's music teacher.’ But "Makarand" might have been a pen- 
name and it might also have been his own father’s name as it is 
popularly believed. It is also maintained that Mohd Adil Shah 
Adah was also Tansen's teacher.^ It is also just possible that 
Bakshu, the court-musician of Raja Mansingh Tomar and a 
mature, elderly musician of vast experience and versatile genius, 
might have influenced Tansen, a younger musician. 

Works written during Tansen's life-time do not provide any 
solid evidence that Tansen was a pupil of Swami Haridas of 
Brindavan. While some works have mentioned Swami Haridas as 
Tansen's teacher, others have asserted that Shri Govind Swami 
was Tansen's teacher. All such works, however, were written 
hundreds of years after Tansen's death and express opposite and 
antagonistic view-points. 

Some music biographers and historians have even asserted that 
Tansen was a pupil of the famous Haridas "Dagur", who was, in 
fact, much younger to the former, chronologically speaking. 

Faqirullah has called Tansen an "Atayee" (amateur) and 
according to him, mere practical musicians with no profound 
knowledge of music as a great art, belonged to this category 
which represents a pejorative term. He has gone to the extent of 
calling Tansen even unlettered (nirakshar) and illiterate. Tansen 
might have been "illiterate" in the usual, current sense of the 
word, but he was a man of vast knowledge gained through 
experience. Having lived in intimate contact with poets, pundits, 
and savants of a high order, his genius as a musician-composer 
had blossomed forth into full exuberance. Just as Kabir who knew 
not how to read or write, wrote verses that were collected and 
preserved by the devotees and his disciples, Tansen's great 
compositions were preserved and transmitted to the succeeding 
generations by his disciples and the followers of his tradition. 

Tansen composed hundreds of Dhrupad compositions and 
some of them were associated with the name of Akbar;'’ Some of 

’ Raga-mala, 118A 


" Muntakhabuttawarikli, p557 

Raga-darpana, 9thchapter, hand-written ms, Rampiir State Library 
^ Ain-I-Akbari, Blackman Ip.445 



these Dhrupad compositions even prove that Akbar studied music 
treatises like Sangeet-ratnakar with great attention and deep 
interest and in his discussions on music, Tansen was an invariable 
participant.^ And it is needless to mention that on such occasions 
Sanskrit scholars and pundits were always present. 

Some Dhrupad compositions by Tansen also prove that he was 
fully conversant with the ancient "Moorcchana" tradition as well 
as the comparatively new "Muqam" tradition in music^. He 
enriched knowledge of music through his close contacts with 
foreign Muslim musicians of Akbar's court. New conceptions and 
interpretations of many Ragas came into vogue due to these 
historic changes in Akbar's time. Such changes and 
transformations were inevitable as a product of a historic process. 

Raja Mansingh Tomar, ruler of Gwalior (1486—1516), was 
the first patron of Tansen. His son, Vikramjit, ruled only for two 
years and in 1518, Ibrahim Lodi had subjugated Gwalior and 
brought the vanquished ruler with him to Agra. In 1526, 
Vikramajit was killed while fighting against Babar as an ally of 
Ibrahim Lodi. 

It is just possible that Tansen lived from 1518 to 1526 under 
the shelter of Vikramajit, his patron, and during this period, came 
into contact with Swami Haridas of Brindavan. But it cannot be 
definitely stated where Tansen lived during these unsettled 
conditions of political change. 

In 1549, Mohd Adil Shah Adah occupied the Suryavanshi 
throne. He was a brother-in-law to Sher Shah's son, Islam Shah 
and a profound scholar and lover of music. He was a patron to 
such illustrious men as Ramdas, Bazbahadur and Tansen. The 
well-known Hemu Adah was his prime minister. Tansen was 
Adah's pupil as well as his protege. It was perhaps after the 
downfall of the Suryavanshi reign that Tansen went and sought 
shelter under Ramchandra Baghela. 

In 1562, Tansen left Ramchandra's Court and came to Akbar's 

' Raga-mala, 275A, 281A 
^ Ibid,}86A 



court where he lived the last part of his life.* It is said that Tansen 
was forced to leave Ramchandra's patronage and join Akbar's 
court against his wishes. . It is said that the well-known Jainkhan 
had spoken to Akbar about Tansen's music in extremely eulogistic 
terms. As a result of this, one Commander Jalal Khan Koorchi 
was sent with an army to bring Tansen and Raja Ramchandra had 
to part with him in deep sorrow"*. It is this very patron Raja 
Ramchandra who on one occasion being profoundly moved by 
Tansen's music had given him a reward of one crore of gold 
coins.^ He was universally praised for his great generosity. 

Tansen was granted the highest rank at Akbar's court.^ It is 
said that he used to sing standing during the day time and he sat 
and sang in the night, especially on certain important occasions. 
And every day, on one pretext or another, Akbar used to give him 
some rewards or gifts as money or other valuable articles as a 
token of appreciation of his music.^ 

Tansen readily adjusted to this new life under Akbar's 
patronage. In a mood of exaltation in many of his Dhrupad 
compositions, Tansen called Akbar a world-teacher, an image and 
incarnation of God, one who liberated him (Tansen) from all the 
misery and sorrow of life, performing as if an act of deliverance 
for him. Tansen, in a word, looked upon Akbar as a seer, a savant 
and a great preceptor.^ 

Here is an example of Tansen's Dhrupad in praise of Akbar: 

The learned only sing thy praise 
Thy fame embraces the whole world 

' Akbar-nama, p. 279, Sec. 2 
Muntakhabuttawarikh, p. 345, Sec. 2 
^ Ajkal (Urdu), Music Number, p. 95 
Muntakhabuttawarikh, p Sec. 2. 345 
^ Ibid 

^Akbar-nama, p. 270, sec. 2 
^ Kitab-navarasa, Preface, p. 49 
^ Iqbal-nama, Jahangir, Rampur Copy 
^ Raga-mala, 124A 



The living creatures utter thy name only 

The whole world is covered by thy glory. 

Tansen addresses thee 0 Lord of mercy ! 

It is at thy behest that music reigns in the court 

It is due to thee that Ragas and Raginis sound so sweet 

0 Lord, Lord of the world, thy name is soothing and 


All this, however, is symbolic of a change in Tansen's mental 
outlook in this period of transition, though Akbar himself was 
instrumental in bringing about a close contact between Shaikh 
Saleem Chishti and Tansen at an earlier stage. Hence Tansen's 
warm tribute to Akbar in such laudatory terms as "seer and 
savant". But Tansen's name does not occur in any authentic list of 
courtiers who became the followers of Akbar's eclectic religion, 
"Deen-e-Ilahi". It is just possible, he did not accept "Deen-e- 

At Tansen's death, Akbar had said that it was the death of the 
Ragas of our music and that for the past centuries there was none 
like Tansen in the sweetness and skill of the art of music.^ The 
question arises that if Akbar had heard the music of Swami 
Haridas, alleged to be Tansen's teacher, why was he prompted to 
praise Tansen's music in such superlative terms? But then, even 
Abul Fazal wrote and testified that the like of Tansen was not 
born for several centuries in the past. 

Mughal kings with Hindu wives had become almost a 
convention, and during Akbar's reign, the custom was followed 
with greater freedom. The aristocrats, the courtiers and the elite 
were carried away by this popular convention brought into vogue 
by their rulers. Tansen, too, followed this convention that aimed at 
the rejection of the barriers of caste and creed and so had Muslim 
children from his Muslim wife and Hindu children from his Hindu 

' Akbar-nama, p. 880, sec. 3 
Ain-i-Akbah, Blackman, p. 445 



wife. Based on authentic facts the following description of his 
descendants is now acceptable to all discerning scholars. 




Bilas Klian 

Surat Sen 


Lai Khan 

Sohil Sen Sudhir Sen 

Khushal Bisram Khan Rasbain Khan 


Bhupat Khan 

This family tree is supported by historical facts as 
stated below: 

Abul Fazal has mentioned the name of Tansen's son, 
Tantarang Khan, among the thii*ty-six distinguished musicians of 
Akbar's court.^ There is a reference of Bilas Khan, Tansen's son, 
both in Badshah-nama and Raga-darpana:T\\Q author of Raga- 
darpana, Faqirullah was the Governor of Kashmir during 
Jahangir's and Shah Jahan's reigns and he had full knowledge of 
Tansen's contemporaries and also his descendants. He has also 
mentioned the names of Tansen's son, Surat Sen and also his 
grand-sons, Sohil Sen and Sudhir Sen. 

^Ain-l-Akbari. Blockman, p. 681-682 
“ Ain-l-Akbari, Blockman, Commentary, p. 680 
^ Raga-darpana, 9th Part and 10“' part 



Bilas Khan's daughter was married to Lai Klian who was 
known to the family and Tansen himself had put him under Bilas 
Khan's care and guidance.^ Again, Tantarang Khan and Bilas 
Khan were distinguished musicians of Jahangir's court. Shah 
Jahan had appointed Lai Khan, Bilas Khan's son-in-law as his 
court musician and had conferred on him the title "Guna- 
Samundar Khan" in 1630.“ After Lai Klian's death, his son 
Khushal Khan was appointed the court musician and was also the 
recipient of his father's title "Guna-Samundar Khan"^. Bisram 
Khan was also a court musician and used to sing together with 
Khushal Khan. 

It is recorded that Aurangzeb's coronation on July 23, 1658, 
was celebrated with music."^ Also, that in 1668, Kliushal Khan, 
Bisram Khan and Rasbain Klian used to visit Aurangzeb's court, 
and on October 22, 1668, Aurangzeb had given a reward of three 
thousand rupees to Khushal Khan. It is also recorded that on 
Bisram Khan's death, his son, Bhupat Khan and his brother, 
Khushal Khan were granted a royal gift (Kliilat) by Aurangzeb.^ 

From Akbar's time to that of Aurangzeb, the above family-tree 
has an authentic basis. Though the families of other musicians 
have tried to forge doubtful and fictitious links with Tansen's 
family and his descendants, the thing does not seem to have any 
historical authenticity.The following is a fairly authentic list of 
Tansen's disciples: 

1. Tantarang Khan 

2. Bilas Khan 

3. Miyan Chand—He was fifth in the list of the distinguished 
musicians of Akbar's court. 

4. Surat Sen—According to Faqirullah, he was the son and 
disciple of Tansen. 

‘ Ajkal f'L/rt/wf Music Number, pi00 
^ Raga-darpana, 10th Chapter 
Aurangzeb-nama, p. 44, Part 1 
^ “ p. 10, Part 2 

4 „ . , p. 32, Part 2 



5. Baklit Khan Kalawant (Gujarat)—According to Faqirullah, 
he was also a pupil of Tansen. 

The works Raga-mala, Sangeet-sar and Ganesh-stotra have 
been attributed to Tansen. Excepting the last-mentioned work, the 
first two are extant, but their authenticity is not free from dispute. 
In a work like "Raga-Kalpadruma" many Dhrupad composition" 
of Tansen are available as a literary treasure bu. their original 
form, musically speaking, is definitely garbled and unauthentic. 

In a rare collection of compositions of the Gwalior tradition, 
there are many unknown and unpublished Dhrupad compositions 
by Tansen, and from many points of view, they are very valuable. 
As regards the purity and authenticity of Ragas, Tansen's Dhrupad 
compositions are an undisputed authority. But it is difficult to say 
how far their present version among musicians is a true re¬ 
production of the original. The original compositions, set to 
certain Ragas, are not often sung in the same Ragas but in other 
Ragas, sometimes entirely different. Therefore, it is difficult to 
make a final comment on the present version of these old, time- 
honoured Dhrupad compositions, as music too, like all art, is 
subject to the inexorable law of change. 

But what must be borne in mind is the fact that from the time 
of Tansen Dhrupad came to be recognised as the classical mode or 
style of singing in Hindustani music and it was later divided into 
the four well-known styles or Banis: Gaurhar, Khandar, Nohar 
and Dagur, one or two of which still exist. 

It may also be pointecfdut that Tansen's Dhrupad compositions 
were preserved and sung by generations of musicians after his 
death and the tradition named after Tansen's name called "Senia" 
still continues in some recognisable form here and there. His 
Dhrupads are still smig by trained traditionalists among 

Tansen lived at Akbar's court from 1562 to 1589 until his 
death. During this time, he came into intimate contact with many 
notable and distinguished poets known to Akbar, and among these 
may be mentioned Karnes, Dursaji, Holray Bhatt, Kumbhan Das, 
Vyas, Chandrabhan, Chaturbhuj Das, Raja Askaran, Kunwar 
Prithviraj, Surdas, Madanmohan, Manohar, Todarmal, Narhari, 



Birbal, Ganga, etc. Such an intimate contact with poets must have 
heightened his imagination and inspired his poetic imagery and 
even enriched his music. Tansen was no idle versifier but a truly 
gifted poet of deep insight and subtle fancies and coupled with his 
mind's maturity was another gift, his great and inexhaustible 
imagination —his divine inventiveness. 

Tansen basked in the glory of Akbar's reign and was almost a 
companion to his royal patron. So he cultivated the poise and 
dignity of a great musician and an equally great composer of 
Dhrupads. Here are some examples of his compositions in 
which one finds a sublime synthesis of the poet and the musician. 

There is a subtle pun on the word "Lai" which means the red 
colour and is also the name of Krishna ! "Gopal Lai". In the 
following composition by Tansen, Krishna is found in the midst 
of the Gopis bewitched by his love and it is the red colour which 
dominates the scene: 

The red colours and suffuses everything— 

The eyes, the clothes, the creepers, the flowers. 

The necklace, the emerald in the nose, the precious 

ornaments on the feet, 

The Couch, the Bajuband, the Kangan around the tender 


The red legs and the red feet that move gently, 

Tansen says that even the ground is red 
And in the midst of the red-clothed Gopis 
sits the beloved Gopal Lai. 

A love-lorn Gopi, restless and mad, is in search of Krishna and 
goes out to sell milk and curd, only as a pretext - an exuse to meet 

She sets out to sell her milk, her curd 

And she goes about with her small vessel and her 

tender sweet words 

She has been restless the whole night in the pangs of 


And the locks of hair over her sad face and the faded 

garland of flowers 



Tell the tale of love. 

It is only a pretext for loitering about in the search of 


Tansen says that after love's dalliance with Lord 


The love-intoxicated Gopi walks gently like an 


Nature has been a great theme for many Hindi poets who have 
described its many aspects in memorable words. Here is a 
Dhrupad composition by Tansen in Raga Bhairav descriptive of 
the spring season: 

The whole nature around is full of life and foliage 
The wind blows and different flowers blossom forth 


All the birds—cuckoo, parrot, peacock, dove, the 

thirsting chatak- 

burst forth with joy anew 

And new life and colour rain upon the earth 

Music bursts forth from Kinir, Risal, Been and 


As homage to Saraswati, the goddess of fine arts. 

Miyan Tansen says that at this hour 
One begins with an Alap in Raga Bhairav 
As a sacred and quiet invocation to the morning. 

Again, here is another imaginative piece : 

Krishna, like a black cloud, has come 
And now rains the full showers of sweet Joy. 

There is a thunder in the music of his flute. 

And a lightning-flash in his smiles 

His teeth are like an array of white birds 

And face and limbs are clothed in beauty and 


Tansen says the same Lord has a dalliance 

With the damsels of Braj 

And when he teases them from love's mischief 

There is a disarray of clothes and ornaments all over. 



The conception of Moorchhana, that was the basis of our 
ancient music, has now unfortunately been replaced by the Mela 
system of Ragas. Sage Bharata had given a clear analysis of this 
basic principle without examining which, one cannot understand 
the significance of ancient music. Tansen in the following 
Dhrupad composition, has made a pointed reference to this fact: 

Dhaivat, Pancham. Madhyam, Gandhar 
Rishab, Sharaj Sur and Re—these the learned 
Practise with perseverance. 

Also practice and master the thirteen 

Alankars and the twenty-two Srutis 

and also sing musical notes with a correct intonation. 

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa 
Sa Dha Re, Sa Ni Dha Ni Dha Pa 
Ma Ga Re. 

The learned describe that there are three notes 
In between notes as finer tones and shades. 

And Tansen describes the seven notes. 

The three Grams, the twenty-one Moorchhanas. 

And the thirty-six finer shades 
of notes, the subtle points of nad. 

Here is a lively description of the languorous eyes that have 
not slept in the night: 

Your red eyes betray your sweet dalliance 
With your lover in the night 
The eyes like lotus leaves are restless and are 
besides themselves. 

The eyebrows close and open by turns as 
if love's arrows shot. 

The flowers bloom in the lake and it seems 
Everything around is surcharged with the Lord's love. 

The following Dhrupads by Tansen are in praise of Daulat 
Khan's handsome figure, an unusual subject to which full Justice 
has been done: 

Oh I cannot describe the light of my beloved brother's face! 

I know it in my heart. And my heart 
Knows what praise I wish to render to him. 



I cannot compare him with anything 
I know it only in my heart. 

I find the fruit of my desire 

In the company I keep of beloved Daulat Khan. 

There is another composition, with similar unusual theme, 
Daulat Khan's anger and protest through silence. The situation 
applies only to the type of women called 'manini in Indian poetry. 
But Tansen has treated the subject quite convincingly in the 
present Dhrupad: 

Beloved, why do you get angry with me? 

If I have erred, forgive my mistake 

Now come and embrace me, I am restless in my anxiety. 

Do not cease to speak your loving words to me and 
Become not a stranger to me. 

Who will lay down his life for you when you are in peril ? 

I claim to be your true friend. 

Laughingly I interrogate him, but 

Why does not the bright beloved Daulat Khan answer? 

And the last composition in which Tansen describes the words 
spoken by the complaining beloved (Khandita Nayika) to her 
wayward lover, is truly representative of our traditional amorous 

You have come with tired, languorous face I know it all 
Your staggering feet, your stammering words 
And your intermittent yawns hide nothing. 

Though the secrets are revealed, the lover 
Tells not the tale of his sweet dalliance. 

Tansen's lord, Krishna, for nothing has 

Taken all this trouble to visit the love-lorn beloved at dawn. 


Mudikondan C. Venkatarama Iyer 

When one just mentions the name of Nandanar Charitram. in 
the Katha Kalakshepam (musical discourse), people flock in 
hundreds and thousands and listen to this popular story of Nandan 
the Pariah (Harijan) who found a place in the temples of South 
India as one of the sixty-three Nayanars— devotees of Siva. The 
author of this popular musical narrative is Gopalakrishna Bharati. 

Gopalakrishna Bharati, one of whose immortal works is 
thisNandanar Charitram, lived in that very age, the first half of 
the 19th century, when the world of music saw the appearance in 
the Cauvery Delta of Sri Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and 
Syama Sastri, the great trinity of Karnataka Music. The 
benevolent Maratha regime at Tanjore was already on its wane; 
but the modes of artistic expression in music, dance, drama, 
painting, sculpture as well literature that had reached the zenith of 
everlasting beauty during that regime, continued. This period was 
the culmination of the progressive efforts in these fields of at least 
three centuries that preceded it. 

A few historical facts and a good deal of local oral tradition 
and information are known from which a life account of 
Gopalkrishna Bharati is reconstructed here. Some of the evidence 
is from his own works. The rest is culled from wide and detailed 
enquiries in and around Mudikondan, Anandatandavapuram, 
Tiruvidaimarudur,Konerirajapuram, Tiruppangoor, Chidambaram, 
Mayuram and some other lesser known places in Tanjavur district 
with all of which the composer was connected. Ramaswami 
Bharati, his father, was a Brahmin of the Vadama sub-sect of 
Bharadwaja Gotra. Ramaswami and his father had been Veena 



artists who had to give up their practice to turn towards other jobs. 
Gopalakrishna, the son, was born in Narimanam, a village near 
Nagapattinam in Tanjavur district in Tamil Nadu in 1810. The 
aptitude towards music is therefore partly inherited and partly 
acquired, for his father must have been his firsfGuru'. He had his 
first education in Sanskrit, Tamil and music at Mudikondan. To 
this day, the villagers point out the house in which he lived for 
many years, and also refer to the few compositions of his on the 
village and its men, of his times. 

Gopalakrishna was orphaned early in his life. Anantarama Iyer, 
a cousin, took the place of the guardian, only to cheat Bharati of 
the small property that had been bequeathed to him by his father. 
Having got the property, he drove Bharati away from home. This 
poveity and its attendant hardships find their echo in the 
following lines of Nandan: 

"Nanmaiyum tunmaiyum illamal pochchu 
Sandikkucchandhi kuttadida lachchu 
Samiyum illamal engeyo pochchu" 

[When neither good not bad stayed 

The wanderers danced from one lane to another 

Even God did not stay and strayed.] 

It was at Mudikondan that this wandering orphan found his 
first benefactors in Tashil Venkappa Aiyer, Peishkar 
Muthuppaiyar and Mali Tyagaraja Aiyer. Mudikondan gave him 
his early education. He studied Sanskrit under Diksha 
Appaiyanathu Aiya, Tamil from Chokka Pillai, the father of 
Subbaraya Vathiyar. He lived at Mudikondan in the Agraharam 
East Street in the southern end. This was said to be Bharati's own 
house. Under their patronage Bharati lived till he was about 
twenty-five. Later, he moved to other places like 
Tiruvidaimarudur, Konerirajapuram and Anandatandavapuram 
and then returned to Mudikondan. That is why he came to be 
known as Mudikondan Gopalakrishna Bharati. The first available 
printed edition of his Nandanar Charitram in 1861, by the then 
French Collector of Karaikkal, bears his name in this manner. 

Gopalakrishna Bharati had no special attachment towards 
worldly life. By nature he was a 'Bhakta' who stood at the feet of 



his master. He had his predilection towards Siva. He spent several 
days of his life visiting Siva kshetras (temples). Stories of Saiva 
Nayanars in Periya Puranam and Upamanyu's Bhakta Vilasam 
appealed to him very much. 

Bharati met Ramadas, a great master of Hindustani music, at 
Tiruvidaimarudur. He learnt this style of singing with its modes 
and characteristics, their fullness and variety. At this time he also 
met the composers of Tamil songs, Ananta Bharati and Ghanam 
Krishna Aiyer. Under their encouragement, Bharati's poetic 
genius and musical talents got nurtured. 

On Sri Rama Navami Day in 1835, Bharati came to 
Anandatandavapuram. Here he was noticed by the rich Mirasdai 
who gave him a helping hand. Annu Aiyar and Sivaswami Aiyar 
who were then joined by Rishabhadhwaja Dikshitar, a Sanskrit 
Scholar, were his patrons. It was at the suggestion of this latter 
scholar that Bharati's crystallised ’Nandi-Chindu' song-form was 
to be the basis for his grand Nandanar Charitram. Even while the 
suggestion was in the offing, Bharati slipped away unnoticed to 
the Siva temple at the nearby Tiruppangoor and stood devoutly 
gazing at the Deity Sivalokanatha, and his obedient Nandi, the 
Bull. Deeply moved by sudden and spontaneous inspiration, 
Bharati began to sing in a tense voice the following superb songs. 
Some of these were later incorporated by him into his Nandanar 

Vazhi maraithirukkude—malai pola 
madu paduthirukkude. 

Orunalum varada bhaktan 
Tirunalaippovarenum chittan 
Ulahengum prasiddan kandu 
Odunkamalirundadu kutram. 

Satre vilahiyirum pillai 
Sannidanam maraikkudam 

* * * 

Kudittar, yekkalittar, ullam kalittar. 

[The divine bull is lying, obstructing 

the view, like a hill 



The devotee who had not come ever before 
He is a mystic by name Tirunalaipovar 
He is of universal fame 
You have sinned by obstructing his view 
Please move aside, my son! 

* * * 

Nandanar jumped in ecstasy with full 
of Joy and to his 
heart’s content.] 

Annu Aiyar who came in search of him took him back home. 
But thenceforth, Bharati lived independently so that he could 
serve God better. He supported himself by doing unchavritti, 
eating the food that is given as alms. He also began performing 
the Katha Kalakshepam. For each of his performances, he was 
given from ten to fifteen rupees. This money he deposited with 
Annu Aiyar, the patron. After six months, the story of Nandan, in 
its present form, was completed. The work immediately gained 
popularity and fame. 

Bharati, while writing the Nandanar Charitram, had deviated 
from the original story of the Puranas. In order to dramatize it, he 
had introduced a new but very popular character in the Brahmin, 
Vediyar, as the landlord. Nandan is the farmer, cultivator, but a 
Harijan and an outcaste. His anxiety to go to the temple of Siva in 
the month of Markazhi (December) to see Siva in His sacred 
Dance, and the Vediyar's anxiety for the caretaking of the lands 
and his practical interests and their conflict forms the basis of this 
story. The story has thus a spiritual reformatory purpose. 

Gopalakrishna Bharati's greatest service to Tamil literature lies 
in the simple diction of the spoken language that he uses. The 
Vediyar's speech is in Sanskritised Tamil, and that of Nandan in 
the colloquial language of the working class, lending dramatic 
quality to the composition. As a musician we may say that he 
raised the status of Katha Kalakshepam and, by imparting music 
to it, made it worthy of the concert hall. Many of his songs are 
separately sung at concerts and figure also in dance recitals. 

At Anandatandavapuram one lady promised to serve him curd 
every day. Bharati scolded her saying that she should not get him 



accustomed to such luxuries. This promise she kept for almost a 
year. One day she quietly brought him only churned butter-milk. 
This annoyed the poet. In that mood, he sang in praise of the 
buffalo and cursed it. 

Kedaragowla Raga—Adi Tala 
Madavedu maharajanai pola 
Vaittu rakshittirukkum 
Karakkum yerumai 
Nadu pukazhndidum padi ' 

Adi karakkum 

Nammudai sottai 

Nay urn teenda-dinda (Madavedu) 

Salem seemaikkup poye 
Panam Koduttappu pillai 
Seshan vangi vandadoru madu 
Palaik karandu panguvangiyum 


Pannam kodukkiran yedo 
Parum gunamudaya (Madavedu) 

[The buffalo nursed and nourished like a king 
That buffalo yields a full measure of milk 
and is popular in the country 
It yields enough to feed the owner's family. 

The buffalo, which was got from a distant 
‘place like Salem by our friend Seshan, yields 
so much milk that he is able to purchase 
lands and also advance money on mortgage, 
by the sale of milk. 

What a nice buffalo !] 

Not only is Bharati full of sentiments and love, we find him 
also very humorous. Near Mudikondan is a village called 
Tuttukkudi, where he sang the following in the form of Odam, a 
boat-song; its humor may be noted. 

"Tuttukudi tannil vazhum 


Danantataiya mahajanangal 



Urukku Naradar Rayar Pillai Subbu 
Oru panam sochcham poda 
Subbaiyan idukku." 

[The great people who live at Tuttukkudi, 

Wonderful people they are; 

With the misehief maker Subbu on the one hand 
and the donor Subbaiyan on the other. 

—The great people.] 

The villagers were often seen humming this while sowing or 
reaping their fields.Another song at Mudikondan village :— 

"Paravaikal parrakkudu paren 
Serukku Mudikondan 
Chirappudane vilangum." 

[See the birds fluttering 
In proud Mudikondan 
That shines with fame.] 

It shows Bharati's interest in the fields and eultivable lands as well 
as his appreciation of Nature. Since the poet lived up to his fortieth 
year in Mudikondan, he composed songs on the agricultural 
cultivable plots there and a few people in that village still 
remember snatches of this song. 

Bharati studied yoga and spiritual practices under Guru 
Govinda Sivam who was at Mayuram then. Bharati composed 
musical narratives on the lives of Saivite saints, lyarpakai 
Nayanar Charitram, Tiruneelakantha Nayanar Charitram, 
Karaikkal Ammaiyar Charitram, as also other philosophical 
songs—Jnanacchindu, Jnankkummi, Chidambarakkummi and 
several stray folk songs, classical music compositions, and 
occasional songs. He composed also a funny drama called Mami 
Natakam. He also enriched his narrative compositions by 
including in them Ragamalikas, Viruttam (verses), Dandakam, 
Chindu, Dwipadi, Tripadi, Lavani (based on Maharashtra style), 
Todayam, Savayi, Dialogues, and humorous songs. 

In these pieces, he has on the whole made use of no less than 



70 Ragas. Besides the basic or Kartha Ragas, he has used rare 
Ragas like Gowri Manohari, Chakravakam, Sarasangi; and the 
still rarer Ragas (apurva) like Manji, Nowroj, Saraswati 
Manohari, Desiya Todi, Jingla, Kuranji, Karnataka Behag, 
Isamanohari, Kanada, Saranga, Hamir Kalyani, Balahamsa, Sama 
and so on. 

In order to show the quality of his diction, the following song 
may be cited : 

Natanamakriya Raga Rupaka Tala 

Natanamadinar (Aiyan) Tillai 
Nayakan Ponnambalam tannil 
Tarikita—Takajam tari—Tadinu Dhinuta, 

Tadhina dinata—Kitatakudiki 
Tattaneku Taka tallangu Taka tallangu 


[The Lord of Tillai 

Danced on the Golden Stage 
With rhythmic cadences of 

Taritakita Takajam Tari-Tadinu 
Tattaneku Taka Tallangu 

{Of the drum)] 

In this song which includes the rhythmic syllables (j^tis), the 
dancing feet of Siva can easily be visualized. In order to show the 
rare Ragas which he chose, the following may be quoted : 

Hamir Kalyani Raga Rupaka Tala 

Yedo Teriyamal pochchude—ini 
Yenna seyven ? 

Adi Paraparamakiya Tillai 

[What shall I do? 

I had not known 



Somehow Oh! Eternal Lord! 

Siva of the Golden Stage! 

The bliss of your praise and 

the happiness in your service!] 

He was an expert in the rhythms. Bharati has made extensive 
use of the Talas Adi, Misra, Eka, Chapu, Triputa, Rupaka, 
Arijampa, Tisra Eka, Ada, Jampa, Misra Jampa, Desadi and so on. 
Many of his songs contain the intricacies of rhythms, interwoven 
and incorporated in the 'So'lukattus' (Sabda) of the song. For an 
illustration the following may be quoted: 

Riti Gowla Raga Misra Jampa Tala 

Tandava darisanam tarum—tamadam 
Pannavendam—idu Samayam 
Andavanc un mahimaiye 
Aravindurai seyvar 
Nanareyen pedai 
Y endanukkorutaram 

[Bless me with thy divine Tandava dance, 

Oh Lord ! delay not, this is the right moment 
Who knows your fame 
I know not. Show me once.] 

Another song that may be quoted is : 

Gowri Manohari Raga Misra Chapu Tala 

Yeppo tolaium inda tunbam— 

Jagadeesan karunai irundalallo inbam! 

Garbhavasa dukkam Analum kedu ! 

Gowrimanoharanai dinam nadu. 

[When will my suffering end 
Oh Lord of the Universe, 

There will be bliss 

Only if there is your grace. 

Birth in its embryo sinful. 

So daily seek Gowri Manohara (Siva).] 



Another very popular song on the dance of Nataraja. runs 

Vasanta Raga Ata Tala 

Ashta disaiyum gidu gidunga, 

Seshan talai nadunga, andam 
adita, Gangai tulisidara, 

Ponnadarum kondada— 
ishtamudane Gopala Krishnan 
pada sadai ada, aravum 
Vadamada adin padamada 
Tom tomendru padavi tandomendru 

(Natanam adinar)] 

[All the eight corners (Diks) of the earth shook, 

Adisesha's head shook, 

The universe shook. 

The Ganges sprayed. 

The Devas praised, 

Gopalakrishnan sang with love. 

The Lord's matted locks swayed 
The ornamental serpents and their hoods swayed 
The Lord danced rhythmically 
bestowing salvation on his devotees.] 

Bharati popularised his songs by passing them on to his 


students. The famous poet-musician Sri Vedanayakam Pillai who 
was the District Munsif at Mayuram, at that time took his training 
under Bharati and learnt the Nandanar Charitram, and taught it to 
Krishna Bhagavatar. At the request of Kandappa Chetty, Bharati 
went to Nagapattinam and gave a performance there. The 
Nandi—Chindu in Nandanar Charitram became so popular that it 
had to be repeated for five successive nights. Monsieur Susain 
from Karaikkal got it printed at his own cost, after taking due 
permission. Tyagaraja, the great classical composer, was said to 
have been moved by the song in Raga Manji—'Varukalamo aiya', 
"May I come near you. Oh Lord!" in which the humble Pariah- 
devotee appeals to the Lord plaintively to approach Him! A Tamil 
scholar Meenakshisundaram Pillai was thrilled by the song in 
Raga Dhanyasi—opening with the word 'Kanakasabhapati.' 



In 1859, when Bharati was barely 49 years old, and was 
planning a seeond trip to popularise his other compositions, his 
friendly patron Annu Aiyar suddenly died. His adopted son 
Vengu Aiyar tried to take away all the money of Bharati. But 
friends intervened -and persuaded that the money be returned. A 
pupil, Ramaswami Aiyar of Mayuram, requested Bharati to 
reinvest the same at a reliable Bank. 

This event, however, turned him away from the hectic singing 
mood. He yearned for a solitary state. He lived for some time 
incognito, perhaps in the Ramalinga Swamigal's movement. This 
state continued for over sixteen years. After Swamigal shook off 
his mortal coils, Bharati resumed Kalakshepam in October 1876 
at his pupil's residence with his lyarpakai Nayanar Charitram. 
Mahavaidyanatha Aiyar, Ramaswami Sivan and Veena Vaidyana- 
tha Aiyar of Mayuram are said to have attended this great 

The song 'Yezhai-p-parpanadi' on the 'poor' penitent Brahmin 
Landlord moved Ramaswami Sivan so much that he set a song of 
his 'Muttukumararaiyane' in the same tune. At the instance of 
Vedanayakam Pillai, his talented student's performance of the 
Nandanar Charitram, was arranged at Mayuram and was attended 
by Bharati and others. Sri Krishna Bhagavatar's rendering 
enchanted Bharati who went up and blessed the musician. 

In the next five years Bharati stayed at Mayuram with his 
disciple Ramaswami Aiyar. He gave away his savings to the 
temples of Mayuram and Chidambaram. On the Mahasivaratri day 
of 1881, after the first evening puja at the temple, Bharati came 
home to rest and closed for ever his eyes. 

Of Bharati's personal appearance we have heard that he was of 
medium stature and build, medium in complexion and 
unimpressive in appearance. He had a bulging forehead, stooping 
shoulders, somewhat bald and with somewhat bent legs. He wore 
his dhoti only up to the knee, and had an upper cloth. But his 
dress was always spotlessly white. Around his neck Bharati wore 
a red thread with a single 'Rudraksha' bead which was quite 
conspicuous by being close to his protruding Adam's Apple. He 
was quite humble, sensitive and inclined to show an inferiority 



complex. But the kindness and cordiality of his friends like Annu 
Aiyar and students like Ramaswami Iyer made him free from all 

At one time, after inviting him, one Aghora Sastri of 
Mayuram, agreed to Gottuvadyam Krishnan's arrangement of 
Selva Ganapati Bhagavatar to sing at the discourse. Bharati asked 
them to give him the chance to perform at least the next day but it 
was denied. Then came a new song, one in the Maharashtrian 
Lavani style, castigating Aghora Sastri. 

Jagam pugazh Nandan Charittiram Ketka 
Janangal Asai Kondar 
Aghora Sastri pillai Marumahan 
Azhaithidum sedi sonnen. 

[The people (of Mayuram) expressed a desire to hear my 
musical discourse of the story of the famous Bhakta Nandanar and 
the nephew of Aghora Sastri (of Mayuram) conveyed this news to 

Ghoshtigaludane tamburu talam 
Kondanke sendren; 

Gottuvadya Krishnaiyan— 
eni Kudathenac-chonnan. 

[I went there with my party and accompaniments to 
perform— only to be informed by Gottuvadyam Krishna Iyer to 
my disappointment—^that the programme was scrapped.] 

Pattu patinaintu ketparam; anta 
Bharati Kathai vendam; 

Sittamudane Selva Ganapati vanthal 
Selavo illai enrar. 

[He had so advised, presuming that I may demand some ten or 
fifteen rupees; on the other hand, a performance by 
Selvaganapathi may cost very little, as he will be satisfied with 
whatever pittance he is paid.] 



Kalarai Veesam koduttalum athaik 
Kandiththu kelanam (Ganapati) 

Valum, tholuma pinainthoru kathai pola 
Vantha mattum sonnan. 

[Accordingly Selvaganapathi gave a haphazard performance 
within his capacity.] 

Eppadiye Irendu thadavai achuthendren 
Enna sethi entren. 

Appa namenna seyvoin ? Athu kathai 
Achuthendru sonnan. 

[I was thus disappointed twice, but I contacted them a third 
time only to hear them plead their inability to engage me.] 

Vilakku vaiththalum pothumentren 
Verondrum Vendilane! 

Uzhakile kizhakku Merkku parpathu Ulaganthanilundo ? 

[I even offered to render the performance if only the lights and 
nothing else were provided at the dais but they were very panicky 
with this affair.] 

Marattiya pennai padach cholli vegu 
mariyathaikal seythar 
Vetilazhithu thanjavur (thyyalai) paiyanai 
vedikai parthu vittar. 

[But they had rewarded liberally a Mahratta woman who gave 
a vocal recital. He (the nephew of Aghora Sastri) had fun with her 
in his house.] 

Pasiththu vandan, Oru kani kandan, athai 
Parthan; Mavelai! 

Esainthathuthan upamanamendru 
Enke erunthathy. 

[A hungry man saw a fruit-only to find that it was plaster 
work. That example can be cited in this instance.] 



(Harahara) Nandan Charitram Natesar Mahimai 

Nachai Mudinthathu Par! 

Engilum kanen entha adhisayam 

Enke erunthathy Par! 

[The opportunity to deliver a musical discourse of the 
Nandanar Charitram—the glory of our Lord Nataraja—thus had a 
bitter episode. So much disappointment I had nowhere else!] 

Some wag had his fling at Bharati once: 

Koonakurugal nirguna ‘ 

Durguna asuya ahankara Gopalakrishna Bharati 

[Stunted, worthless, vicious, malicious, proud Gopala Krishna 

After all that is said, we remember Gopala Krishna Bharati of 
Mudikondan as a godly composer, capable of mellifluous songs 
with striking rhythms, gifted singer, and author of a masterpiece 
in Tamil whose popularity has been growing in concert, dance, 
stage and screen. 


B. C. Deva 

Swami Haridas has a particularly significant place in the music 
of North India, for the age in which he lived was an extremely 
active and productive one. The Moghul Empire was at its acme, 
with Emperor Akbar on the throne. All walks of life—social, 
economic, religious and artistic—were throwing up brilliant men. 
It is, therefore, not very surprising that Haridas found a favourable 
environment to give his best to society. While one cannot say that 
he was a pioneer in creating new forms of music, he was certainly 
a strong driving force in the spread of music, particularly 
devotional music and the type called dhrupad. 

The details of his biography are not well known and what little 
is known is a subject of controversy. There are different schools 
holding different views. In the opinion of some, Swami Haridas 
was born in Multan or Hoshiarpur of Punjab. It is also said that 
the place of his birth was some village in Haryana in North India. 

There are two better known traditions. According to one of 
them, Swami Haridas was born in 1480 AD. (Samvat 1537, 
Bhadrapad, Sukla Astami, Budh) in a village called Rajpur, near 
Brindavan. His father was Gangadhar and his mother's name was 
Chitra Devi. They were Sanadhya Brahmins. At the age of 
twenty-five Haridas was initiated into sannyasa by Asudhir, a 
Saraswat Brahmin. The yogic lineage to which this group 
belonged was the Nimbarka sampradaya or the virakta parampara. 
This seems to have taken on the appellation Tatti sampradaya in 
later times. He is said to have died in 1575 A.D 

Some scholars; however, are of the opinion that Haridas's 
father was one Asudhir, a Saraswat Brahmin from Multan. 



Asudhir's wife was Ganga Devi. They migrated to the village 
Khairwali Sadak, near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. It was here that 
Haridas was born in 1512 AD. (Samvat 1569, Paush, Sukla 
Trayo-dasi, Sukra). It is in memory of Swami Haridas that the 
village of his birth is now called Haridaspur. At the age of twenty- 
five Haridas was given initiation into sannyasa by his father. He 
left his mortal coils in 1607 AD. 

In any case, the significant fact was that from childhood he 
was drawn to a recluse's life. He became a sannyasi even as a 
youth and shifted his residence to Brindavan, the play-ground of 
the Immortal Cowherd and his love, Radha. There he made his 
asram in Nidhuvan and poured out in the seclusion of his 
hermitage his songs of the love of Radha-Krishna. 

Swami Haridas was a musician, poet and mystic, all in one. As 
a musician he was a great singer of dhrupads and taught musicians 
like Tansen. As a poet he composed verses in Braj Bhasha (the 
dialect spoken around Mathura and Brindavan). As a mystic he 
belonged to the tradition of Vaishnava devotion of Radha- 

The compositional type called dhrupad in North India seems to 
have had its origin in very ancient times. Even Bharata in his 
Natya Sastra (2nd AD) uses the word dhruva-giti. Dhruva perhaps 
meant "the basis of song in which words are set to a definite 
pattern". The words used in such compositions were called 
dhruvapad (pada meaning 'word'). In later periods the classical 
music of North India saw the growth of prabandha, a kind of 
composition with various sections, generally four in number. Of 
these, there was one section called the dhruva. Now this dhruva 
was the 'burden' of the composition and was never omitted. The 
words (pada) used in the dhruva were the dhruva-pada. The 
prabandha style of composing and singing were popular till about 
the 14th century. From then on dhruvapad comes into vogue in 
North India; prabandha recedes to the background but, perhaps, its 
remnants could be found in the songs of some Vaishnava temples. 
The dhrupad, as in some earlier prabandbas, had four sections— 
the sthayi (burden), the antara, which moves in higher pitches, the 
sanchari and abhoga. It was in this kind of dhrupad that Swami 
Haridas sang his songs of divine love. 



The period in which the Swami lived saw the highest stage of 
dhrupad. The area in which he lived also was a fertile region of 
musical creation. For Raja Man Singh Tomar,one of the greatest 
patrons of dhrupad, reigned at Gwalior near the Braja land of 
Mathura and Brindavan. The period just prior to the century 
saw the invasion and spread of Central Asian culture in India. 
Enormous cultural movements took place during this time and a 
kind of stability seems to have prevailed during the kingship of 
Allauddin Khilji (1296-1316 AD). It is during this time that the 
renowned singer, Gopal Nayak, lived and sang dhruvapads. But 
the succeeding century is dark and we do not hear much of any 
great musical life in the North. There seems to have been a 
general lack of royal patronage of indigenous music. 

Man Singh Tomar's rule lasted for nearly thirty years (1486- 
1516 AD). He was a connoisseur and patron of music. Under his 
enlightened support dhrupad found a creative environment for 
growth. His efforts were the cause of the production of Krishna- 
lila padas in Braj dialect, modelled on the songs of Vidyapati. In 
his court were a galaxy of musicians like Bakshu, Bhannu and 
Baiju (?). Tansen sang of his glory and mentioned him as his 
patron. It was in this atmosphere of a benign and cultured ruler 
that the dhruvapad blossomed. 

Depending on the text, dhrupads were of two kinds: Vishnu- 
pad and Dhruvapad. Their musical structures were similar but in 
content they were different. Vishnupads, as the name shows, sang 
of the life and deeds of Lord Krishna and were in praise of him. 
The other variety had as its text subjects like description of 
seasons, eulogies of kings and so on. Eventually the Vishnu-pads 
became an important part of the repertoire of devotional songs of 
Vaishnavaites. But, the style of singing of these dhrupads seems 
to have been considerably different from those sung in the Royal 
Muslim courts of the day. 

Swami Haridas’s compositions were, then, strictly Vishnupads. 
But even his songs which do not strictly refer to Lord Krishna, 
have been called Vishnupads, perhaps because of the general tone 
and the mystic source of his music. There is not much doubt, 
however, that his compositions were musically of the dhrupad 
type. He is also said to have composed tirwats, ragamalas and so 



on. There are about 128 compositions extant in this tradition, of 
which about 18 are philosophical and 110 devotional. The former 
are known as Siddhanta pada, and the latter as the Keli mala. 

That he was deeply learned and widely acquainted with the 
music of his days is evident. He describes how Radha and Krishna 
are sporting and says, "Two beams of light are playing. Unique 
are their dance and music. Ragas and Raginis of heavenly beauty 
are born. The two have sunk themselves in the ocean of raga." 
Besides such description of ragas, mention is found in his works 
of stringed instruments like kinnari and aghouti. His compositions 
also contain references to mridanga, duff, alapana and ragas like- 
kedara,'gouri, malhar, vasant. 

The saint-singer was not only a great musician himself but also 
a great teacher and inspiration to many a musician. The greatest of 
his pupils was Tansen, one of the "nine gems" of Akbar's court. 
Tansen's discipleship with Swami Haridas is still a matter of 
tradition and popular belief There is no incontrovertible evidence 
that this Tansen was a student of the Saint. Further, neither the 
life of Tansen, nor his style shows an imprint of the religious 
fervour of Haridas. He was a courtier, having all the ambitions 
and attitudes of his class and there is no tradition of his having 
lived in Brindavan. There seems to have been another Tansen who 
was disciple of Govinda Swami. This second Tansen who 
composed many Vishnupads lived about three decades later and 
spent his last days in Brindavan, 

A popular account has it that the great dhrupad singer and 
composer, Baiju, was a contemporary of Tansen and a disciple of 
the Swami. The Raga Darpana, which is a translation of Mi 
Kutuhal compiled at the instance of Raja Man Singh, does not 
mention Baiju’s name. However, Jagannatha of Shahajahan's 
court talks of Nayak Baiju and Nayak Gopal as being prior even 
to Bakshu of Man Singh's court. As Swami Haridas was a child 
when this king ascended the throne of Gwalior, Baiju could not 
have been a pupil of Haridas. 

Incidentally it may be mentioned that there was another 
Haridas,a dhrupad singer of eminence. This musician was called 
Haridas Dagur and it is probable that he lived much later than 



Swami Haridas. The greatness of the Swami was not of his having 
been only musician. As was already mentioned, his songs have a 
literary beauty and fine simplicity. But, above all he was a great 
mystic and devotee, belonging to the lineage of the saint-singers 
of the "Bhakti movement"—a socio-religious surge which 
engulfed the whole of India, influencing its music extensively, 

Bhakti (adoration) is an intensely personal devotion to the 
Godhead. Such personal and emotional attachment finds it outlet 
in various modes of human expression and a state of ecstatic 
relation of the bhakta (devotee) to the Adored is voiced forth in 
poems, hymns and songs. The Vedic hymns to Ushas and Varun 
are some of our earliest devotional songs. But a very powerful and 
overwhelming social wave swept over this country, particularly 
after the Bhagavata pur ana, Ramanuja and Madhva, say roughly 
after the 10th century AD. This force was something new and a 
sustained effort was made to give this divine emotion and vision a 
theological orientation. The popular Krishna legend was 
converted into mystic symbolism. The attachment of the 
individual to the Adored might take on the colour of awe, 
humility (santabhava), respect, subservience (dasya bhava), 
friendship (sakhya bhava) and love of the lover to the beloved 
(madhurya bhava). With the almost complete identification of 
Krishna with the Adored, there was a large-scale exodus and 
pilgrimage of bhaktas to Brindavan, the pasture land where 
Krishna dallied with gopis (milkmaids). This naturally made the 
madhurya bhava the finest form of adoration, raising the physical 
love of man and woman to the mystical love of man to the Lord. 

Swami Haridas belonged to this tradition of madhurya bhakti. 
It is said that he was deeply affected by the southern philosopher 
and bhakta, Nimbarka. Nimbarka, a Telugu philosopher of the 
13th century, sojourned to the North spreading the gospel of 
Radha-Krishna love. This missionary expounded the philosophy 
of bhedabheda: the doctrine of difference-cum-identity as between 
the Supreme soul and the individual soul. Swami Haridas's 
religious philosophy embraces not only the Radha-Krishna love 
and adoration, but the witnessing of the love by the human 
mind—a state of mind called the rasa. This aspect of rasa, the 



witnessing of differentiated-non-differentiated plays of Radha- 
Krishna, is the central theme of all his songs and teachings. In this 
ecstatic trance he sings the play of Krishna among the bowers of 
Brindavan; that is why his Lord of adoration is called Kunj bihari 
(Kunj ==lover, bihari = one who plays). Even more than the Lord, 
Radha becomes the central figure of all his songs. He sings, "who 
knows of the quality of things more than Radha ? If anyone has 
any knowledge at all, it is by her grace. None knows the beauty of 
raga, tala and dance, as Radha does. Many are the savants who 
have acquired mastery over the principles of music, the purity and 
form of it; but they are as if defeated in the presence of Radha's 
knowledge of beauties of the art." 

Swami Haridas began the Haridasi sampradaya and he had 
many a spiritual disciple. Some of the more important of this 
lineage were Vitthal, Vipul, Viharin Dev, Krishna Das. They 
fostered his tradition of devotional music. The main feature of this 
was congregational singing. In the Braja country this congregation 
is called the samaj and is akin to the sankirtan of Bengal and the 
bhajana goshti of South India. Even to this day devotees gather 
for the samaj on special occasions and sing of the holy love of 
Radha and Krishna. 

Swami Haridas was a recluse and a hermit. From the age of 
twenty-five when he became a sannyasi he kept away from 
earthly wealth and power. It is said that once a rich merchant 
devotee of the Swami gave him a vial of exquisite scent. The saint 
buried it then and there in the earth. The devotee was indeed sore 
that so costly a gift was treated as of so little a value. However, 
when he visited the temple the next day, he not only found the 
sanctum filled with the pleasant smell of the unguent, but the very 
idol of the Lord appeared bathed in it. 

Though one of the greatest singers of his time, Haridas was 
completely indifferent to any laurels. He shunned all publicity. A 
story goes that the Emperor Akbar wanted to hear him. It was, of 
course, impossible to fetch the Swami to the Royal court; and the 
hermitage was out of bounds to kings and such like. Finally 
Tansen suggested a ruse. Akbar would go in rags as a tambura 
bearer with Tansen to Haridas. So the two went and the Emperor 
listened with rapt wonder to the heavenly music. When they came 



back to the court, Akbar remarked to Tansen, "How is it that with 
all your greatness your music is so poor compared to the Swami's 
?" Tansen replied, "What else can it be? For I sing to the Emperor 
of this land, but he sings to the Emperor of the Creation." For 
Haridas was a saint, a mystic and a singer completely dedicated to 
the adoration of Kunj bihari and immersed in the rasa of this 
ecstasy. Hence it is said that "a rasika like him has not been on 
this earth or the sky; neither will there be one like him." 

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The galaxy of composers in this volume 
includes Jayadeva of Gita Govinda fame, 
Annamacharya, w ho shares with 
Purandaradasa the honour of being the 
PUamaha oi Karnataka miisic^ Kshetrajna, a 
specialist in madhura bhakti, Tyagaraja, 
Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri, 
the trinity of Karnataka music, Maharaja 
Svati Tirunal, the royal composer from 
Travancore and Gopal Krishna Bharati, 
who has won immortal fame by his 
composition on Nanda, the pariah. Amir 
Khusrau who is a product of the blend of 
bvo cultures, Haridars and Tansen, the 
pioneers of the highest form of Hindustani 
music, Dhrupad, are three outstanding 
names in the history of Hindustani music. 
Haridas was a saint-singer who sang only of 
God and for God only. 


In our country we are familiar with a 
large number of devotional poets whose 
outpourings are part of our musical 
heritage. Some of them have an important 
place in the history of our music and the 
evolution of musical forms. It is difficult to 
draw the line between these devotional poets 
and the composers who form the subject of 
this volume.